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Thaksin Shinawatra, Manchester City's controversial new owner, will lay on a free concert for the club's fans this weekend, promising Thai cuisine and music, but his charm offensive continues to meet robust opposition from human rights campaigners. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has lodged a formal objection with the Premier League about Thaksin's takeover and wants him expelled under the league's fit-and-proper-person guidelines.
Almost a month after Thaksin joined the ranks of foreign owners in the top division the renewed attack on his political past comes too late to pose a serious threat to the former Thai prime minister, who is described in HRW documents as "a human rights abuser of the worst kind". But the damage to his reputation is considerable, with his opponents sending the league's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, a dossier outlining alleged human rights violations.

Thaksin has had almost £1bn in assets frozen by the military government that ousted him in his homeland last October, and is wanted in Thailand on corruption charges relating to his five years in power. Living in exile in London, he maintains he is innocent and his lawyer, Noppadol Pattama, said last night: "The civil and human rights charges against him have never been proven. My client deserves to be treated as an innocent man until proven guilty. So far there hasn't been any solid evidence against him."
The league has the power to implement a fit-and-proper-person test if a complaint is made about a club director having criminal convictions, but Thaksin has none and his supporters say he is being victimised for political purposes.

The league's position is that there are no grounds to bar him. "We have very clear rules on the ownership of our clubs, which go beyond any requirement by UK company law and are, to our knowledge, some of the sternest in place in any UK industry," said a Premier League statement. "The fit-and-proper-person test means anyone convicted of a range of offences would not be permitted to become a director, or a shadow director, at a club. But what needs to be made clear is that in the first place we accept the primacy of UK and European law. This determines who may, and who may not, legally reside in the UK, own and acquire assets, and engage in commercial and other activities."

The majority of City's supporters appear to have accepted Thaksin, who has spent £17m on four new players and is close to bringing in a fifth, the Brazilian midfielder Elano for about £7m from Shakhtar Donetsk. City hope to complete a deal by Saturday but learned yesterday that a £7m move for the Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini had been rejected.
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