Britain revokes visa for former Thai premier

Other News Materials 8 November 2008 10:24 (UTC +04:00)

Britain has revoked tourist visas for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman, media reports said Saturday.

Sources close to Thaksin in Bangkok could not confirm the development but said it might be linked to his recent decision not to seek political asylum in the United Kingdom, reported dpa.

"He has relinquished the application process for political asylum in the UK," said a close aide to Thaksin who asked to remain anonymous. "A few days ago he decided to terminate the process."

Thai newspapers claimed a cancellation notification was sent to various airlines by the British UK Border Agency at a time when the former first couple were travelling outside London where they have been living in self-exile.

"Airlines are advised not to carry these passengers to the UK," said the e-mail message to airlines, signed by Bangkok-based immigration liaison manager Andy Gray.

The British embassy in Bangkok on Friday had refused to comment on the development.

Thaksin and his wife have been living in self-exile in London since August 11, days after Pojaman was sentenced to a three-year jail term on tax evasion charges.

On October 21, Thailand's Supreme Court for Political Office Holders found Thaksin guilty of abuse of power in 2003 when he was still prime minister for allowing his wife to successfully bid on a plot of prime Bangkok land at a government auction.

Last week, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the embassy, demanding the extradition of Thaksin from London to face his jail term in Thailand.

Thaksin and Pojaman had reportedly started the process of applying for political asylum in the UK. The couple have reportedly been granted honorary citizenship in the Bahamas.

Thaksin, a former billionaire telecommunication tycoon, was prime minister for two terms before being ousted by a military coup on September 19, 2006.

He spent almost 17 months in London in the post-coup period, before returning to Thailand in February after the People Power Party (PPP) came to power on a pro-Thaksin platform.

He fled to London again in August after his wife was sentenced to jail and before his own trial's outcome in the Ratchadapisek land case was due.

In exile, Thaksin has continued to play a pivotal role in Thailand's domestic politics. The current government is headed by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law.

On November 1, Thaksin made a phone-in speech, reportedly from Hong Kong, to a mass pro-government rally in Bangkok in which he bemoaned his fugitive status, belittled Thailand's judiciary and announced that only "the kindness of His Majesty the King or the power of the people," could bring him back to Thailand.

The appeal for King Bhumibol Adulyadej's clemency was deemed highly "impolite" in Thailand, a constitutional monarchy.

The UK visa cancellation was announced when Thaksin and his wife were reportedly in China, en route to the Philippines where he was scheduled to meet with some of his political allies from the People Power Party.

Ironically, despite his fugitive status, Thaksin still holds a diplomatic passport which is granted every former prime minister.

The passport was revoked by the military-installed interim government that ruled Thailand in post-2006 coup period, but then reinstated by the elected government under the pro-Thaksin PPP.

Thaksin's behind-the-scenes role in Thai politics this year has brought the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) back to the streets of Bangkok for the past seven months.

Dedicated to blocking Thaksin's return to power, the PAD has held anti-government protests since May and on August 26 seized Government House, the seat of the administration, which they have occupied since.