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Britain revokes visa of ousted Thai leader

Video by Marian HENBEST

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-08

British authorities have reportedly revoked the visas of Thailand's ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and his wife. The pair remained in Britain after Thaksin was convicted of corruption in absentia by a Thai court in October.

British authorities have revoked the visas of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, an airline official told AFP Saturday.
   
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the British embassy had informed all airlines in an email on Friday not to allow the couple to board flights to Britain.
   
"The British embassy sent an email message to all airlines.... It's general practice for all airlines, so no airline can take them on board to England from any port," he said.
   
Embassy officials refused to confirm or deny the report, but in the email seen by AFP, Bangkok-based immigration liaison manager Andy Gray, from the UK Border Agency wrote:
   
"The United Kingdom Border Agency has revoked the UK visas held by the following Thai nationals: Thaksin Shinawatra... Potjaman Shinawatra," listing the pair's passport numbers.
   
"The UK visas contained in the passports of the individuals listed above are no longer valid for travel. Airlines are advised not to carry these passengers to the UK," the email said.
   
Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, fled to Britain in early August after his wife was convicted on tax evasion charges, saying he would not receive a fair trial in Thailand.
   
He has since been sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for conflict of interest after helping his wife buy state-owned land when he was prime minister. Four other corruption cases are outstanding against him.
   
His exact whereabouts on Saturday were unknown, but local media reported he was travelling from China to the Philippines.
   
Thaksin's Thailand-based spokesman said he could not confirm the report.
   
"What I can verify is that Thaksin has not received any document from the British authorities concerning this issue.... But if it's true Thaksin can clarify the matter," said Phonthep Thepkanjana.
   
Thaksin's critics in Thailand, supported by a group called the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), have occupied the grounds of the prime minister's offices since August, accusing the current government of running the country on his behalf.
   
The group, whose protests preceded the 2006 coup, descended on the British embassy on October 30 to demand Britain extradites the former premier, a week after a senior Thai prosecutor admitted the chances of doing so were "slim".
   
But the director of the attorney general's international affairs department told AFP he hoped to begin the legal process by the start of next year.
   
Thaksin addressed his supporters in Thailand on November 1, denouncing his opponents in a telephone address to 90,000 loyal supporters packed into a Bangkok sports stadium.
   
The populist politician maintains a loyal support base among the kingdom's majority rural poor.
   
Speaking from an undisclosed location Thaksin thanked the crowd but told them he could not return to the kingdom from exile without a royal pardon. 

Date created : 2008-11-08

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