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No comment on Thaksin, wife losing UK visas

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November 9, 2008

Thai PM: No comment on Thaksin, wife losing UK visas
Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat refused to comment on ex-premier in exile Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Khunying Pojaman whose visas have been revoked by the British government, national news agency TNA reported.

Somchai, a brother-in-law of Thaksin, said he would like to concentrate on improving the economy, saying it was the British government’s right to cancel the visas of Thaksin and his wife.

His exact whereabouts on Saturday were unknown, but local media reported he was travelling from China to the Philippines.

Thaksin has a mansion built in China, reported a local daily on Sunday, quoting a source from Thailand’s ruling People Power Party with close connections to the ex-premier.

The same source also said that Thaksin might move into the new mansion if he could no longer stay in Britain. Thaksin and Pojaman were in the process of applying for political asylum in the UK.

The newspaper said the Bahamas, an archipelago country in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida, might as well be a new home for Thaksin and family. He and his wife have reportedly been granted honorary citizenship there.

A report from AFP on Saturday, which quoted an airline official, said the British Embassy had informed all airlines in an e-mail on Friday not to allow the couple to board flights to Britain.

Embassy officials refused to confirm or deny the report, but in the e-mail seen by AFP, Bangkok-based immigration liaison Manager Andy Gray, from the UK Border Agency wrote:

“The United Kingdom Border Agency has revoked the UK visas held by the following Thai nationals: Thaksin Shinawatra . . . Potjaman Shinawatra,” listing the pair’s passport numbers.

“The UK visas contained in the passports of the individuals listed above are no longer valid for travel. Airlines are advised not to carry these passengers to the UK,” the e-mail said.

Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, fled to Britain in August after his wife was convicted on tax evasion charges, saying he would not receive a fair trial in Thailand.

He has since been sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for conflict of interest after helping his wife buy state-owned land when he was then prime minister. Four other corruption cases are outstanding against him.

In October a British Home Office spokesman said Thaksin and his wife had applied for political asylum, but people close to Thaksin were later quoted in Thai media as saying that report was incorrect.

Thaksin’s critics in Thailand, supported by a group called the People’s Alliance for Democracy, have occupied the grounds of the prime minister’s offices since August, accusing the current government of running the country on his behalf.

The group, whose protests preceded the 2006 coup, descended on the British embassy on October 30 to demand Britain extradites the former premier, a week after a senior Thai prosecutor admitted the chances of doing so were “slim.”

But the director of the attorney general’s international affairs department told AFP he hoped to begin the legal process by the start of next year.

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.

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