U-turn seen on Thaksin passport

national October 13, 2012 00:00

By Nanthida Phuangthong
The Nati

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Foreign Ministry request for 30 days to reply to Ombudsman is step towards revocation, source says

The Foreign Ministry appears set to revoke former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai passport after requesting another 30 days to respond to a recommendation by the Office of the Ombudsman that it review the issuance of the document, a high-ranking ministry source said yesterday.

The ministry needs the 30-day period from today for the “complete compilation of relevant documents”, according to its reply to the Ombudsman’s Office, which submitted its recommendation to the ministry on September 13. The source, citing an agreement by ministry officials responsible for visa issuance, said the delay would likely result in the ministry having to revoke the passport.
The office said it has received the ministry’s written request for the 30-day period and would grant the extension if it sees fit.
“The issue would have dragged on anyway, had the ministry insisted on [standing by its] issuance of the passport to Thaksin, as the Ombudsman’s Office would likely pursue the matter through other channels, including the ultimate means – through a complaint with the Administrative Court,” he added.
“And when the matter reaches the Administrative Court, there would be many people held responsible, all of whom are ministry officials, ranging from the head of the visa division and the director-general of the Consular Department to the permanent secretary,” the source said.
“The ministry will also submit inquiries to the Consular Department and the Royal Thai Police as to whether they would still need to summon Thaksin for prosecution. And coupled with their likely replies to the summons, the ministry has no choice but to review its policy on the passport for Thaksin,” he said.
Another factor prompting the ministry leadership to rethink the passport issue is an objection voiced by former foreign minister Kasit Piromya. The objection rendered weightless an earlier assertion by the ministry – which is currently under Pheu Thai leadership – that no objections to issuing a passport to Thaksin had been forthcoming. 
Hesitation among the ministry’s leadership over the matter has also emerged since Sihasak Phuangketkeow became permanent secretary, taking over from predecessor Theerakul Niyom, who was the one who decided to issue the passport. Sihasak has been left to decide how to respond to the Ombudsman’s Office, the source said.
“These [factors] have all now contributed in the requested 30-day time frame, and likely revocation,” he added.
In September, the Ombudsman’s Office advised the Foreign Ministry to review its decision to issue a new passport to Thaksin. It said it was illegal to issue the passport to the fugitive former premier, who fled a court verdict in 2008 that sentenced him to two years in jail for abuse of power.
In response, the ministry said it would study the Ombudsman’s recommendation that Thaksin’s passport be revoked and that it would handle the case in accordance with laws and regulations.
Thaksin’s Thai passport was revoked in April 2009 by then foreign minister Kasit. The current minister, Surapong Towichukchaikul, issued Thaksin a new one in October last year via the Thai Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where the ex-leader has been living in self-exile.
The Supreme Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant against Thaksin for failing to show up to hear the court's decision in the Krung Thai Bank loan scandal case.