Japan Grants Visa to Fugitive Thai Politician Thaksin

Posted August 15th, 2011 at 3:20 am (UTC-5)
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Officials say Japan has granted an entry visa to former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in spite of his status as a fugitive in his homeland.

The visa allows Thaksin to come to Japan to deliver a speech and visit areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Thaksin, who now lives in Dubai, has been convicted and sentenced in Thailand to two years in prison for corruption, making him ineligible to enter Japan without special permission. The previous Thai government had been seeking his arrest and extradition.

However, a new Thai government headed by Thaksin's younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra took office this month and is more sympathetic to Thaksin's claim that his conviction was politically motivated. Officials say Thai and Japanese diplomats discussed the visa request last week.

Ms. Yingluck is under pressure from Thaksin supporters to grant an amnesty to her brother, who remains an influential adviser to her government. Any such action would anger powerful factions in Thailand's military and business establishments.

Thaksin was ousted from office in a 2006 military coup before being tried and convicted in absentia.