Administrative Court reinstates Chaturon’s passports, rejects Thaksin’s plea
THE SUPREME Administrative Court ruled yesterday that the termination of Pheu Thai Party key member Chaturon Chaisaeng’s passports was illegal.
Following a suggestion by police, the Foreign Ministry revoked Chaturon’s three passports, including a diplomatic one, to prevent him from travelling abroad.
The court ruled that the order to revoke the passports was against the law since Chaturon was not prohibited from travelling out of the Kingdom.
While the prominent politician and former deputy prime minister was prosecuted in a court martial for resisting an order by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to report himself to the junta after the 2014 coup, the court ruled that he was allowed to travel abroad occasionally.
With permission of the NCPO, Chaturon can travel abroad and return to the Kingdom at any time within a determined period, the court said.
“It is apparent that [Chaturon] did not have any intention to flee from the country to avoid the prosecution, therefore the ministry and concerned officials have no legitimacy to revoke the passports,” the court ruled.
The court agreed with Chaturon that the termination of his passport was politically motivated, since the former minister had criticised the junta-sponsored draft of constitution.
There was no solid reason to support the order to revoke the passport, therefore its termination was illegal, the court said.
Chaturon yesterday said his case should be a lesson for the authorities when it came to the abuse of power to ban freedom of expression. The order to terminate his passport was a reaction to his criticism of the military-sponsored charter, he said. “I have been bitter about such unjust and unfair treatment over the past three years,” he told reporters after the verdict.
Chaturon sued the Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the Consular Department and its director-general, who are responsible for the passport affairs, as well as National Police Chief, who made the recommendation for the revocation.
Don said the ministry and he now had to comply with the court ruling and would reissue three passports for Chaturon. “The case is over but it’s up to [Chaturon] what to do next,” Don said when asked what would happen if Chaturon sued the responsible officials for alleged abuse of power.
Revocation of politicians’ and activists’ passports was a practice conducted by authorities after the military coup in 2006 to humiliate and obstruct the travel of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was then ousted by the coup.
Thaksin’s passports were revoked every time his opponents were in power, but they were reissued every time his associates came into office.
The current junta also revoked Thaksin’s passports in May 2015 after he gave an interview with foreign media criticising the military coup staged by General Prayut Chan-o-cha to purge his sister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thaksin also asked the administrative court to rule out the termination of his passport.
In a separate case, the court yesterday rejected Thaksin’s plea on the grounds that he is already in exile in a foreign country. With or without a Thai passport, Thaksin can travel.
Thaksin said yesterday that the court’s verdict was “not beyond my expectation”.
“The reason I filed the lawsuit was not because I had difficulty in not holding a Thai passport. Rather I merely wished to see that the Thai justice system had the opportunity to prove itself from the criticism that it had been used as political tool … against specific groups of people,” the ex-PM said in his Twitter posts.