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 16 Apr 2009

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Thai govt revokes ex-PM’s passport

Thailand's government has revoked the personal passport of ousted and exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra following several days of demonstrations that paralysed Bangkok, the Associated Press quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Wednesday.

Thaksin, whom the government accuses of stoking the recent protests, has been on the run since he fled the country ahead of a conviction on corruption charges last year. He has returned to Thailand only once - briefly - while his allies were in power last year

The revocation makes his passport invalid if he cannot secure other travel papers. Since fleeing, Thaksin has been spotted in the Central America, London, Dubai and Hong Kong among other places. He has said before that several countries have offered to issue him passports.

"If we believe the person who holds the passport is doing anything that could undermine the security of the nation, then we have the right to revoke the passport," Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said. The document was revoked Sunday, he said. The government has already revoked his diplomatic passport.

The move comes a day after protests led by Thaksin's supporters ended in the face of a mounting military crackdown. The demonstrations forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit, paralysed the capital for days and left two dead and 123 injured before leaders called them off.

In his interview Wednesday with France-24 television from Dubai, Thaksin urged Thailand's widely respected king to intervene. "I have urged his majesty to intervene. He is the only person that can intervene ... otherwise the violence will become wider and also the confrontation would be more and more," said Thaksin.

The 81-year-old monarch is revered in this Southeast Asian nation, enjoying wide support among Thais regardless of political affiliation.

A state of emergency remained in place Wednesday with soldiers continuing to patrol key intersections in the capital. Police are searching for the protest leaders, only three of whom are in custody, checking airports in case some tried to flee the country, local television stations said. The three in custody are expected in court Thursday, their lawyers said.

Bringing the protests to an end and rounding up the leaders may prove to be the easy part, analysts said Wednesday. The harder task will be to restore the country's battered image abroad and heal internal divisions - which have caused continuing unrest since Thaksin's ouster in a 2006 coup.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva struck a conciliatory but tough stance hours after the demonstrations ended, insisting that protest leaders would be prosecuted but also offering to sit down with all parties.




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