Chaturon's passport fate will hit others, Prayut warns

national September 04, 2015 01:00


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Foreign minister demands answers from Foreign Ministry on passport revocation

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday the government had revoked former education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng’s passports because the senior Pheu Thai Party member faced so many cases and had done wrong so many times before. 

And Chaturon is not alone, he said; “there are many others” who face having their passports terminated as well. 
“If we don’t have any rules, then we won’t be able to move forward. I have nothing to lose, and I’d like everyone to remember what I say, what I do and what the country will gain,” Prayut said. 
Chaturon yesterday sought explanation from the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Department about why his three passports, including the diplomatic one, had been revoked. 
“I want a valid explanation. I have become a second-class citizen, with my travelling rights taken away. Of course, I’m being prosecuted, but as long as the cases are not yet over, I should not deserve such punishment,” he said. 
Chaturon is facing several charges, including failing to answer a summons from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in the immediate aftermath of the May 22 coup last year and being publicly critical of the junta-sponsored draft charter. He is currently being tried in military court for the first offence. 
Prayut said Chaturon had been summoned more than 10 times to get him to stop publicly criticising the government and the military junta. 
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said the travel documents had been revoked at the request of the Royal Thai Police. 
He said Chaturon could not travel as he faces arrest, and this falls within the scope of Articles 21 (2) and 23 (2) of the Foreign Ministry’s 2005 regulation on passports. Hence, he said, the passports were revoked on August 19. 
Article 21 (2) states that officials can refuse or revoke a person’s passport if he faces criminal charges or is under pre-trial release or if the person is an alleged offender facing an arrest warrant.
Article 23 (2) states that the person in question is someone who cannot be granted a passport. 
Chaturon told reporters after a meeting with the Consular Department’s director-general Thongchai Chasawath that he was not wanted by an arrest warrant, but was out on bail while being tried in military court. 
He also pointed out that he is still in the country, and cannot travel without the court’s permission. Also, he said, since his case was with the military court, police had no authority to ask for the revocation of his passports. 
“The Foreign Ministry claims that it made the decision in accordance with regulations, but its judgement was based on false information from the police,” he said. “I urge the ministry to review its decision and provide a formal explanation to me in 15 days. 
“PM Prayut made a senseless comment when he said my passports were revoked because I had done something wrong. 
The Foreign Ministry’s regulations on passports cannot be used as a law to punish people,” he said, adding that the regulation had become a political tool to limit freedom of expression.