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Thai ex-premier Thaksin ends visit, US on defensive

Publication Date : 21-08-2012


Thailand former minister Thaksin Shinawatra has left the United States without fanfare, having spent much of his time in America playing cat and mouse with the yellow shirts and putting his host in a somewhat awkward situation.

A phone-in was made to his supporters from South Korea, signalling an end to the US visit, which was marred by questions over whether US authorities ignored their own law, and by the return of the WikiLeaks ghost to haunt Washington.

The United States' permission for Thaksin to enter the country, now that his party's in power, has put the superpower's diplomacy under scrutiny. Critics pointed to the WikiLeaks-exposed documents that purportedly showed the US Embassy in Thailand once considered him a man unsuited for a US visa. The alleged embassy cable statement claimed Thaksin "may or may not have committed crime of moral turpitude" following the street turmoil in 2009 when the Democrats were in power.

The US Embassy here has never commented on anything emanating from WikiLeaks.

Anti-Thaksin Thais have staged protests both in Thailand and the United States. Complaint letters were written to American authorities including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Criticism of the US visa decision was also fierce online. The campaign prompted the embassy to take the unusual step of giving a public statement on how decisions to give approximately 50,000 Thais visas annually never have anything to do with politics.

Thaksin himself has admitted that US authorities did not want him to visit their country when the Democrats were in power. In an interview with a Siamtown US news group in Los Angeles, he charged that foreign governments "who did not want to quarrel with" the then Thai administration acquiesced when asked to ban his entry.

Those agreeing with the US visa about-face insisted that Thaksin's conviction on criminal charges in Thailand, which should have triggered US immigration action against him, was politically motivated. This argument, however, did not quite address the question why the US government only changed its stand on Thaksin after his political party rose to power in Thailand.

Asked by Siamtown US to comment on allegations that his US visa was part of a "trade-off", Thaksin said: "People who don't know the truth talk a lot. Worse still, those who know are not quite smart. The first thing they should know is, the extradition treaty does not cover political cases. Mine is a political case."

Asked what was the "symbolic impact" of his US visit, Thaksin said: "I just want to show that I can go anywhere but Thailand."

He also taunted his political rivals for "becoming afraid of the ghost that they turned me into".

ASTV reports that the US authorities also became concerned about possible repercussions of his visit, so much so he was advised to keep a low profile and quietly leave the country. The reports could not be verified.


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