The Nation reports:
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife; Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra failed to board a Thai International Airway Sunday afternoon flight from Beijing to return to Bangkok as earlier scheduled.Bangkok Pundit asks whether this is exile or asylum, and examines points of British law on the latter. The Guardian reports:
People Power Party sources said there were rumours the couple and their children would be seeking exile in England. [...]
He is due to return to Bangkok to testify on Monday in a Supreme Court's hearing on the Rachadaphisek land-purchase deal, in which both Thaksin and Pojaman have been accused of abuse of power by taking part in the bidding for land owned by the Financial Institutions Development Fund, a unit of the Bank of Thailand.
Rumours had spread that they might not return home after Khunying Pojaman was sentenced to three years imprisonment for avoiding paying Bt546-million tax. Rumour mill said that they might seek political asylum in a foreign country.
A diplomatic headache will await Thailand and England if the exile speculation is confirmed, with repercussions spreading as far as the football pitch of Manchester City, a Premier League club bought by Thaksin last year.
Five months after returning from exile to a hero's welcome, he railed that the Thai judicial system was stacked against him, despite his allies in the People Power party winning December's election.
"What happened to my family is like fruit from a poisonous tree - the fruit will also be poisoned," he said. "There is a continuation of dictatorship managing Thai politics ... which is followed by interference in the justice system. These are my political enemies. They don't care about the rule of law, facts or internationally recognised due process."
In the event they try to extradite him, such statements will be part of his case that he cannot receive a "full and public hearing" in Thailand. However, Bangkok Pundit does not think things will go that far:
I am sure the government will make efforts to extradite him like they did last year and they will set up a committee, send people on trips to the UK, and suddenly the matter will disappear. Thaksin in his announcement talks of things have happened, but he can't go into now. Whether they like it or not, the elite will not want its dirty laundry aired in public.
Photo: I took this photo at Bangkok's international airport in February 2008 when Thaksin returned from his first self-imposed exile, coinciding with the tenure of the coup-installed government. Supporters again showed up at the airport to meet Sunday, but "People's Power Party MP Pracha Prasopdee told people awaiting to see Thaksin at Suvarabhumi Airport that Thaksin would not return home last night. (The Nation)