Monday, November 10, 2008

Thailand to push Thaksin extradition wherever he goes

BANGKOK (AFP) — Authorities in Thailand will press for the extradition of Thaksin Shinawatra no matter where he goes to live, officials said Monday after Britain revoked the ousted prime minister's visa.

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

The multi-millionaire's whereabouts are currently a mystery.

Local media reported that he is in China while others said he is set to fly to the Philippines, which Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat -- Thaksin's brother-in-law -- was scheduled to visit 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.

Thaksin has until the end of next week to appeal against his conviction but prosecutors are working on extradition documents, Sirisak said.

The reasons for the British government's decision to revoke the couple's visas, which emerged on Saturday, remain unclear.

Sirisak said prosecutors first planned to send the request to Britain, but as London had cancelled the visas of Thaksin and his wife they would wait to find out exactly where they are now.

"We planned to send it to Britain but (the plan) does not work now, he is not there," he added.

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 which are not believed to have extradition agreements with Thailand have reportedly offered to take in Thaksin and his wife.

The Philippines foreign department said earlier Monday that it has not received any asylum request from Thaksin and that it was unlikely to approve any such application.

Thaksin has spent most of his time since the September 2006 coup in self-imposed exile in Britain, where he bought and subsequently sold Manchester City football club.

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

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