Thailand cannot seek the extradition of fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra despite confirmation that at least one of two photos taken of her in London recently appear to be authentic, a top Thai prosecutor said Tuesday.
Interpol has also not issued an arrest warrant for the ex-premier due to insufficient evidence even though Thailand requested it do so, police said.
Yingluck fled Thailand in late August to escape punishment over her administration’s failed rice-pledging scheme, just as the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions was set to deliver a ruling in a criminal negligence trial.
She was sentenced in absentia to five years behind bars.
Amnat Chotchai, director-general of the International Affairs Department at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), said the OAG has not yet requested she be extradited due to a lack of information about her whereabouts.
Even though two photos have surfaced online appearing to show her in London, Mr Amnat said “unverified” photos cannot be used as grounds to seek an extradition order.
In the first photo, a woman resembling the former premier is allegedly shown at Westfield Shopping Centre in West London on the day after Christmas.
The second picture shows her with another Thai woman outside Harrods of London. Deputy police chief Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul confirmed last week the photo was genuine.
Mr Amnat said the Royal Thai Police (RTP) are responsible for verifying her location and residence, both of which must be confirmed before prosecutors can move forward with the case.
“No extradition request has been submitted to any country,” he said. “The police are trying to locate her and verify her whereabouts.”
The Foreign Ministry has revoked her passports and asked Interpol to help locate her, he added.
“Thailand’s extradition requests are credible and taken seriously by European countries and the US.
“We receive good cooperation. We need to have clear information and strictly adhere to the rules,” he said.
However it would be up to the UK authorities to decide whether to cooperate with an extradition request or grant her asylum.
“We don’t know the details of any asylum request, so any attempt to counteract that could backfire if we address the issue without knowing the details,” Mr Amnat said.
Speculation is rife that Yingluck has applied for asylum in England.
A report emerged in December claiming the UK has issued her a passport but Brian Davidson, the UK’s ambassador to Thailand, has declined to comment on this.
On the matter of seeking extradition for Yingluck’s elder brother Thaksin, another former Thai premier still on the run from the law over a separate corruption scandal, Mr Amnat said requests have been sent to a number of countries in Europe and Asia seeking confirmation of his whereabouts.
Despite rumours that he is living in Dubai, all contacted countries have replied that he is either not there or is no longer residing there, Mr Amnat added.
Police have sent a copy of the Supreme Court’s ruling to Interpol as part of the procedure for issuing a warrant for Yingluck.
Pol Col Surapan Thaiprasert, deputy chief of the RTP’s foreign affairs division, said Interpol requested the court ruling.
As Yingluck’s photos and whereabouts continue to generate public interest, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai confirmed Tuesday the ex-premier has been in London since September.
She may be carrying the passport of another country as all of her Thai passports have been revoked, he added.
In general, western countries do not require passports of people applying for asylum.
According to Mr Don, the British Foreign Secretary informed him of this but would not elaborate on her status in the UK or whether she has applied for asylum or another visa there.
He said her being in the UK does not affect Thai-UK relations.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha noted that each country has its own criteria and reasons when considering extradition requests.
He pointed to the case of Thaksin, who has been living in self-exile for years now to avoid a two-year jail term.
“Has anyone sent him back? Please don’t make this an issue,” Gen Prayut said.
“If they can be brought back it’s good. But this concerns a foreign country over which we have no control. There are many aspects to consider.” – Bangkok Post
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