In pursuit of ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who fled the country last August shortly before a court ruled against her, authorities have repeatedly explored the possibility of seeking her extradition.
They have also sought Interpol’s help in issuing a notice requesting cooperation or alerts about Yingluck from police in foreign countries.
Thai police expect that a world-wide “red notice” – asking police to pinpoint the location of a wanted person and arrest them – could be issued by the international policing body in order to bring the fugitive former premier back from her current refuge in London.
That city is now confirmed as her location following publication of recent photos on social media.
However, the red notice has not yet been made, with Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France saying they have not yet received sufficient evidence to issue it. Yet, Thai police have apparently not yet given up.
As the details of Yingluck’s case are closely examined, the two issues are found to be entwined.
An Interpol red notice has become an essential part of extradition request procedures. This is because it helps locate a wanted person, a critical component required for filling out an extradition request form.
Once the red notice is made, it would be sent to police in 192 countries that have joined the Interpol network.
When the target is located and arrested, Interpol would notify its Thai branch. The Thai police would then inform prosecutors and have them proceed with an extradition request.
Thailand and the United Kingdom have an extradition treaty. Thai prosecutors could coordinate with the British Home Office, or pass the request through the Thai Foreign Ministry.
The Home Office would then forward the matter to British prosecutors, who would forward the extradition request for a British court’s considerations.
Yingluck, meanwhile, could also file an objection to the request with the British trial and appeal courts.
The British government would, however, make the final decision whether to extradite Yingluck to Thai authorities.
While an Interpol red notice would help trigger a person’s arrest, the resulting detention would only be temporary, for perhaps seven to 10 days.
This is clearly different from a normal arrest warrant, where a wanted person may be detained for the duration of the process.
If the extradition request has not been approved by the expiry of the period of detention, the person must be released.
In some previous cases, a person caught through the Interpol red notice process has been dealt with under the foreign country’s immigration law. In that event, Thai police could fetch a person detained at an immigration checkpoint back to Thailand without having to go through the country’s court procedure. This, however, would probably not happen with Yingluck, who holds significance as a former leader of Thailand.
Ultimately, whether Yingluck could be forced to return to Thailand would depend on Interpol, judicial mechanisms in the UK and the junta government’s determination to bring her back for prosecution.
After fleeing Thailand, Yingluck remained unseen until the New Year, when photos of her in London were circulated through social media.
Yingluck was accused of dereliction and malfeasance of duty related to her government’s rice-pledging scheme, which allegedly caused massive financial damage to the state worth Bt500 billion.
She was sentenced in absentia to five years in jail without suspension by the court in a September ruling that had been rescheduled after her flight from the country. Speculation that she is seeking asylum in the UK continues in parallel to attempts by the state to get her back.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha recently said that the extradition process was “generally uneasy”.
Public prosecutors, meanwhile, said they have yet to request Yingluck’s extradition from any country.
Amnart Chotchai, director-general of the International Affairs Department of the Attorney-General’s Office, said in early January that the agency needed to gather sufficient and correct information before submitting a request.
“We have to make sure our information is clear and legal, or the requested country may turn us down because we don’t meet their conditions,” Amnart said.