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Britain revokes ousted Thai leader's visa - Printable Version

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Britain revokes ousted Thai leader's visa - cyrano - 11-09-2008 08:14 AM

By BUSABA SIVASOMBOON

BANGKOK — Britain has revoked the visa of Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, making him unable to return to London where he had been living in exile, a Thai foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday.

"The ministry has checked the reports with the British authorities. They have confirmed the decision to revoke the visas (of Thaksin and his wife Pojaman)," Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Thanee Thongpakdi said in a telephone interview.

Thanee said it makes no difference that Thaksin carries a diplomatic passport.

Thaksin, who fled Thailand in August to escape corruption charges, among others, was sentenced in absentia by a Thai court in October to two years in prison. Prosecutors have said they would seek his extradition.

The former leader was removed from office in a 2006 military coup. He has claimed he fled the country because he cannot get a fair trial there.

Citing an unnamed airline official, the Bangkok Post said the British Embassy in Bangkok sent an e-mail to international airlines on Friday asking them to not allow Thaksin and his wife Potjaman to board flights to the United Kingdom.

The report said Thaksin was traveling in China but that it was unclear if his wife was accompanying him.

A Bangkok-based executive with a European airline Saturday confirmed the e-mail from the British embassy was sent Friday. He refused to reveal his name and asked that the airline not be identified, stating, "in the current political climate it would be unwise."

A spokesman for Thaksin in Bangkok, Phongthep Thepkanjana, said Saturday he did not know Thaksin's current location and that the British government has not contacted the former prime minister.

"I spoke with Thaksin's secretary and he said that Thaksin still has not been notified by the British government," he said.

Phongthep said was trying to contact British officials himself, but has not been able to reach anybody.

Daniel Painter, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Bangkok, said Saturday he could not comment on individual immigration cases. Britain's Home Office and Foreign Office also refused to comment.

A Thai court convicted Thaksin in October of violating a conflict-of-interest law by facilitating his wife's purchase of lucrative Bangkok real estate from a state agency in 2003, while he was prime minister. His wife was acquitted.