Deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra flew home to Thailand after 17 months of self-imposed exile Thursday, kissing the ground at Bangkok airport to an ecstatic welcome from thousands of supporters.
He landed at 9:38 am (0238 GMT), an immigration official said, and quickly left under police escort to the Supreme Court to face corruption charges filed by the military regime that toppled him in a September 2006 coup.
The billionaire businessman flew out of Hong Kong early Thursday saying he would report to authorities as soon as he arrived, and told reporters on Thai Airways flight 603 that the graft charges against him were unfounded.
"My reputation has been tarnished. I have done a lot for my country," said Thaksin, dressed for his homecoming in a smart black suit and white shirt.
"The allegations are made up. They are made to justify the coup."
Thaksin's son was travelling on the flight, along with several businessmen and two footballers with English Premiership football club Manchester City, which Thaksin bought last year.
A cheer rose from the travellers as the plane touched down.
The charismatic entrepreneur emerged from the airport to cheering crowds, and got to his knees to bow and kiss the ground of his home country. Thaksin has spent most his time since the coup living in Britain.
Ex Thai Prime Minister Thaksin arrives home: vows to remain out of politics – Bangkok, 29 February, (Asiantribune.com): Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand amidst tight security Thursday morning, ending 17 months of self-imposed exile since the September 2006 military coup that ousted him from the country's leadership. Once stepping on the Thai soil, Thaksin knelt down, placed both his hands on the ground and bowed down. At least 600 policemen were deployed at Suvarnabhumi airport where a large crowd of Thaksin supporters, many of them carrying placards welcoming him back, waited anxiously for his arrival. Repeating his intention to stay out of politics, he announced that he would spend his time back in the country fighting charges against him and restoring his tarnished reputation.