I'll be home this year, Thaksin tells supporters

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra speaks to journalists as he arrives at a hotel in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Thaksin told his "Red Shirt" supporters Wednesday that he expects to set foot in his homeland again this year

Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra told his "Red Shirt" supporters Wednesday that he expects to set foot in his homeland again this year.

"With all your support, I'm likely to return home this year. You probably think I've said often I'll come home. If I can't, please come to get me," he said in video address from neighbouring Laos.

An estimated 2,000 people gathered in the Thai town of Nong Khai, just across the border, to hear the ex-leader speak, police said.

Thaksin was toppled by royalist generals in 2006 and lives in Dubai to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption that he contends is politically motivated.

His sister Yingluck Shinawatra became prime minister last year after a resounding election victory by the ousted premier's political allies.

Mass rallies by Thaksin's supporters in the Thai capital in 2010 descended into the kingdom's worst political violence in decades, with more than 90 people -- mostly civilians -- killed in a military crackdown.

"Whether or not I return home, the country must move forward. If everything is over and I return home, I don't necessarily have to become prime minister. I can serve people," Thaksin told his supporters in televised remarks.

On Saturday Thaksin is set to address thousands of supporters who will attend a rally in neighbouring Cambodia.

He remains a much-loved figure for many poor Thais, but is hated by much of the Bangkok-based elite in military, palace and bureaucratic circles who see him as autocratic and a threat to the monarchy.

The former leader, who frequently visits other Asian countries, has previously downplayed suggestions that his political allies are seeking to clear the way for his return to Thailand without going to jail.