MANY POSSIBLE solutions have been circulated about the way that fugitive ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra will resolve her flight from Thailand, which might last a lifetime. One is that she will seek political asylum in the United Kingdom, where her brother Thaksin, who has also fled Thai legal cases, has spent time running businesses, as well as living in Dubai.
The Nation’s Wasamon Audjarint talked with Prasit Piwawatthanaphanit, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, on the general instruments involved with the political asylum-seeking procedure that may apply in Yingluck’s case, as well as the possibility of the UK extraditing her back to Thailand.
Basically speaking, “political asylum” is a legal relationship between an asylum seeker and the requested state. According to Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution.
However, no state is obliged by domestic or international law to grant political asylum. The country uses its sovereign powers to decide whether to grant a request or not.
Consequently, if Yingluck applies for political asylum in the UK, the British authorities will consider whether the charge of which she has been found guilty – negligence in regard to the rice-pledging scheme which brought financial damage to the country – is really a “political offence”, thus making her eligible for asylum. In the UK, it is the Home Office that oversees this process.
Asylum seekers generally claim that they fear persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a certain group or political opinion.
The 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees are also often relied on when considering seekers’ conditions.
There is no exact definition of what constitutes a political offence. Courts may take several factors into consideration as to whether an offence is political or criminal. It should be noted that not only the act of alleged offender is considered, but also any possible political motive and the structure of the country from which a person has fled.
In recent decisions in European courts, the emphasis has been on protecting the rights of the defendants.
It is also understood among Western countries that a political offender should not be extradited simply because they have different political opinions to the norms of their society. The only exception is if they are guilty of a crime such as murder or terrorism.
Thaksin has said that the Thai justice process since the 2006 coup, which threw him out office as prime minister, is unfair to him. Yingluck, whose government was also thrown in a coup, would probably follow the same path.
The Thai authorities’ legal team, meanwhile, might argue that Yingluck had agreed to go along with the judicial process. Her act of fleeing right before the verdict could mean that she simply wanted to avoid punishment, they might say.
Another channel that might be used is the extradition treaty between Thailand and the UK that was signed in 1912 and has been effective since.
There are conditions that will activate extradition and one of them is if an offender has been guilty of a crime that violates the laws of both their original country and the one where they are seeking asylum. This is called “double criminality”.
Consequently, if Yingluck’s offence under Thai law for negligence in state duty also violates any British law, she may well be extradited – if she is found in the UK and if Thailand makes such a request.
Yingluck is at present a fugitive convict. She fled before her court verdict was due to be read on August 25 in a dereliction case over her government ‘s rice-pledging scheme, which was accused of being plagued by corruption, causing massive losses to the state.
The Supreme Court eventually ruled on her case on September 27 and she had 30 days to make an appeal in person.
She did not do so, which means the case is technically concluded. In accordance with new legal procedures for cases against politicians, the statute of limitation does not apply to the case, which apparently means her status as a fugitive is permanent.
Last week, police revealed that all four Thai passports held by Yingluck had been revoked by the Foreign Ministry following a request from police.
The cancellation was Thai authorities’ latest action relating to the fugitive former premier, who was sentenced for five years in absentia for failing to prevent corruption in her government’s rice-pledging scheme. They have been in contact with Interpol, the international police agency, in an attempt to locate and catch her.
The UK last week informed Thailand that if Yingluck were to stay in that country, it would not involve political asylum, according to Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai.
“The UK said that if Yingluck came to stay in the UK, there would not be an issue of political asylum. If she wanted to stay, she would need to follow the normal immigration process,” Don had said, responding to a reporter’s question whether Yingluck had already been granted political asylum.Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai
A source in Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party, meanwhile, speculated that the former premier was seeking asylum in unspecified countries. The source did not say that she was only dealing with the UK.
The source also said that Yingluck wanted to finalise the matter, which is one reason why she had not been seen in public recently.