Thursday, September 22, 2011

Govt reconsiders Thaksin's passport

Surapong says ex-PM is entitled to Thai identity

Sept 22, 2011
Bangkok Post

NEW YORK : Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul wants to return ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's ordinary Thai passport, revoked two years ago after he made inciting remarks during the red shirt rallies.

Thaksin in 2005, when he had a Thai passport

Mr Surapong said the former premier deserved to carry an ordinary Thai passport. The return of his diplomatic passport was also being considered.

"A passport is like an identity card. Even prisoners in Thailand still hold their ID card. I would like Thai society to think on this basis," Mr Surapong said in New York where he is leading the Thai delegation to the United Nations General Assembly.

"I would like Thaksin to get his ordinary passport back before thinking of the red diplomatic passport."

On his first day at the Foreign Ministry on Aug 17, Mr Surapong dismissed criticism that one of his missions was to return Thaksin's passport.

His priority was to bolster relations with other countries, he said.

The ministry revoked Thaksin's ordinary passport on April 12, 2009 after the government accused him of inflammatory remarks from abroad which it said incited red shirt demonstrators to rise up against the government led by then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The decision came one day after red shirts stormed the venue of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Pattaya, forcing Thai officials to abruptly cancel the meeting.

Mr Surapong backed his push to return Thaksin's passport, saying it was revoked for political reasons. Many countries he had contacted felt the same.

Thaksin, who is on a visit to Cambodia, usually travels on a passport issued by Montenegro. He also carries passports from other countries including Nicaragua and Uganda.

Normally, present and past government leaders are entitled to have a diplomatic passport. The Surayud Chulanont government formed after the military coup in 2006 to oust Thaksin withdrew his red passport on Jan 10, 2007. The subsequent government led by the People Power Party reversed the decision, but the Democrat-led administration, which came to power in December 2008, decided to revoke it again.

Pheu Thai MP for Nakhon Phanom Paichit Sriworakhan yesterday rejected former senator Kaewsun Atibhodhi's observation that Pheu Thai was making preparations for Thaksin's homecoming.

In an article published on the website, Mr Kaewsun, a staunch critic of the Thaksin regime, suggested the ruling party was pushing for an amnesty law to mark the 84th anniversary of HM the King's birth on Dec 5.

Royal pardons are granted mostly during auspicious occasions such as the King's birthday.

Mr Kaewsun said Pheu Thai planned to have Thaksin return in November so he would serve time in jail shortly before the amnesty took effect.

Mr Paichit said Mr Kaewsun was trying to discredit the government and prevent it from doing its job.

"Mr Kaewsun is trying to stop Ms Yingluck doing her job," he said.

Mr Kaewsun also noted Pheu Thai was in the process of creating a new constitution under which the senate would be dissolved, the role of independent agencies restricted and the power of the judiciary diminished.

Democrat MP Sathit Wongnongtoey said Mr Kaewsun's observation was not baseless. He said Pheu Thai's agreement to amend the constitution and its attempt to push for a royal pardon for Thaksin indicated the party was up to something.

"If it turns out to be just as Mr Kaewsun observes, another crisis is waiting," he said.

Kiattichai Phongphanit, a veteran journalist, said the deposed prime minister might not serve a sentence at all.

"He may stay at a hotel for a couple of hours before stepping out to freedom," he told a forum on political integrity and morality yesterday.

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