Re: “The Shinawatras and the global diplomatic merry-go-round”, Stoppage Time, August 8.
Tulsahtit Taptim’s opinion piece seemed to imply that the British government has been actively involved in the Yingluck Shinawatra controversy and may even have advised her to leave the country to save itself embarrassment with the Thai government.
However, known facts suggest that the British government has not been actively involved in this issue at all, nor is there any reason why it should.
First of all there is no evidence that that Thai government has filed an extradition request with Britain. It has merely been reported that the embassy in London sent a letter to the British Foreign Office, expressing the government’s interest in extraditing Yingluck, apparently without the knowledge of the Thai foreign minister.
A formal extradition request would require an extremely detailed dossier and it is impossible that such a request could have been filed without the knowledge of the foreign minister. Even if an extradition request had been filed, this would have nothing to do with the British government, since the case would be entirely in the hands of the English courts.
In any event, the legal experts at the Thai Foreign Ministry must be fully aware that the chances of getting Yingluck extradited from would be very close to zero.
The offence for which she was convicted is not in the list of extraditable offences in the 1911 extradition treaty with Britain. Under the treaty, either party has the discretion to allow extradition for an offence not covered by the treaty, provided that it is considered an offence in both countries.
While misconduct in public office is indeed an offence in English law, punishable by life in prison, it is a common-law offence rather than a statutory law offence, meaning it is an offence that is entirely built on precedents from past court judgements. As such, it is difficult to define exactly what constitutes criminal conduct under this non-codified law.
In fact the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service is quite open about the fact that it avoids pursuing cases of misconduct in public office whenever a criminal case can be brought against a suspect for an offence covered by statutory law instead, such as fraud in the case of white-collar suspects.
While I don’t dispute Yingluck’s conviction for a moment and have full confidence in the Thai courts, the case for her extradition is made difficult, if not impossible, by the fact that she was not convicted of an offence that is an offence under statutory English criminal law.
Furthermore, her case would likely have difficulty passing a preliminary screening by an English court for the common-law offence of misconduct in public office. The court would most likely consider her actions as nonfeasance rather than misconduct, given that there was no evidence she intended to profit personally from the negligence or wilfully intended to cause harm, even though the state sustained massive losses as a result.
This would point rather to an offence under the tort of misfeasance in public office, which is a civil law offence that is not extraditable.
It is my opinion that, should an extradition request be made, an English court would have to dismiss it out immediately without detaining Yingluck or inconveniencing her in any way. Of course, there is only one way to find this out for sure.