'Thailand to push Thaksin extradition wherever he goes'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 11 2008 10:12 AM | Updated as of Nov 12 2008 01:03 AM

BANGKOK - Thai authorities vowed Monday to press for the extradition of Thaksin Shinawatra no matter where he lives, as the ousted prime minister searched for a refuge after Britain revoked his visa.

Thaksin, toppled in a military coup in September 2006, was last month sentenced in absentia to two years in jail by a Thai court for conflict of interest after helping his wife buy state-owned land when he was premier.

Local media reported that the multi-millionaire is in China, with some saying he is set to fly to the Philippines, which Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat -- Thaksin's brother-in-law -- visited Monday.

"No matter China or the Philippines, we have an extradition treaty with both countries," Sirisak Tiypan, director general for international affairs of the Office of the Attorney General, told AFP.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo's spokesman said Monday that Thaksin would be turned away if he applied for asylum, although the country said it had not received any request.

Sirisak said that even if Thaksin decides to live in a country with which Thailand has no extradition treaty, authorities could ask for him to be handed over on a reciprocal basis.

The Bahamas, Bermuda and several countries in Africa that are not believed to have extradition agreements with Thailand have reportedly offered to take in Thaksin and his wife, Pojaman.

Aides said however that Thaksin may head for the United Arab Emirates.

"If he can't go anywhere, he plans to stay long in Dubai," one Thaksin aide said on condition of anonymity.

Thaksin has spent most of his time since the 2006 coup in self-imposed exile in Britain, where he bought and subsequently sold Manchester City football club to a United Arab Emirates-based investment group.

He returned to Thailand in February this year, but swiftly fled again in August after his wife was sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion.

Sirisak said Thaksin has until the end of next week to appeal against his conviction, but the ex-premier's legal advisor said he would not challenge the decision.

"We will not appeal," said the advisor, Wichit Plangsriskul.

"However we have not received any contact from Thaksin. It is possible that Thaksin and Pojaman will return to Thailand to fight the charges when the justice process is back to normal," Wichit said.

Britain has not commented directly on why it revoked the visas.

But the British ambassador to Thailand, Quinton Quayle, said in a statement Monday that the government in London was "supporting Thailand's democratic institutions, without taking sides."

Thailand has suffered months of unrest, with Thaksin's critics in protest group the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupying the grounds of the prime minister's offices since August.

They accuse the current government of running the country on his behalf.

Thaksin addressed his supporters in Thailand on November 1, denouncing his opponents in a telephone address to 90,000 loyal supporters packed into a Bangkok sports stadium.

The tycoon, who has a loyal support base among the kingdom's majority rural poor, plans another phone-in rally in Bangkok in late November, with the date yet to be confirmed, said Jatuporn Prompan, from a pro-Thaksin group.

"During the phone-in, he (Thaksin) will disclose the names of his political enemies," Jatuporn said.

Asked if he believed that the earlier telephone address caused Britain to cancel Thaksin's visa, he said: "A civilised society and model for democracy like Britain (is) not likely to use these reasons to revoke (his) visa."