Thailand revokes former premier Shinawatra’s diplomatic passport


Bangkok : Thailand’s convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s diplomatic “red” passport has been revoked after he failed to appeal an abuse of power sentence, media reports said Tuesday.

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Thaksin’s diplomatic passport was revoked by the foreign ministry Friday as Thailand was under a caretaker government.

The ministry said the decision was made after Thaksin failed to appeal an Oct 21 verdict of the Supreme Court that sentenced him to two years in jail for abuse of power when he was prime minister in 2003.

The court found Thaksin guilty of knowingly allowing his former wife, Pojaman, to successfully bid on a prime plot of land in Bangkok at a government auction. He had 30 days to appeal the verdict.

The ministry announced the decision after the Thai Parliament voted 235-198 Monday to elect opposition Democrat Party leader Abhist Vejjajiva as Thailand’s next prime minister, which was deemed a blow to Thaksin’s role as a behind-the-scenes political player.

The past two prime ministers, Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, had close ties to Thaksin. Somchai was disqualified as prime minister by a Constitution Court ruling Dec 2 that found his party guilty of vote-buying in the last election.

Samak, a self-described “nominee” for Thaksin, lost his premiership Sep 9 when the Constitution Court found him guilty of moonlighting as a host to a culinary television show while in office.

Thaksin, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 before being ousted by a coup, lived in self-imposed exile, mostly in London, until February when he returned to Thailand after the pro-Thaksin People Power Party came to power.

He fled again in August after his wife was sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion.

Two months later, Thaksin officially became a fugitive from justice after the Supreme Court sentenced him to two years in jail and issued a warrant for his arrest.

In early November, British authorities revoked the former first couple’s tourist visas, forcing Thaksin and Pojaman to give up their London home.

Thaksin continues to hold a regular Thai passport, on which he has recently travelled to Hong Kong, Bali, Dubai and China, according to close aides.

The foreign ministry is looking into procedures for revoking the regular passport, sources said.