Thailand revokes former PM Thaksin’s passport

Violent protests have left two people dead and dozens injured in Thailand.
Thailand’s government said Wednesday it has revoked the passport of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who it accuses of helping stoke anti-government hostility that flared into deadly street protests this week.

The state-run Thai News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungwat saying Thaksin’s passport was annulled from April 12, when his supporters stormed a venue forcing the cancellation of a major Asian summit. Thaksin has lived abroad after being deposed in 2006. In October last year he was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of corruption. Thai authorities say that a passport can be revoked for individuals abroad who “may cause damage to Thailand or others,” but he could still apply for temporary travel documents to return to his home country. Members of the Thaksin-backed anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship crowded a meeting hall in the southern Thai city of Pattaya Sunday, where the Association of Southeast Asian summit was to be held. The protests forced the postponement of the conclave, an embarrassment for the government.

COLOR-CODED CONFLICTRED SHIRTSUnited Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Support Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Makeup Mainly from outside the cities and the poor Demand More money to combat poverty YELLOW SHIRTS The royal color and symbol of the People’s Alliance for Democracy Support Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Makeup Monarchists, wealthier Thais Demand Conservative economics and values and a strong military

The demonstrators — known as “red shirts” after the color of their clothing — have been trying to dislodge current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva — whose backers are called “yellow shirts” — and get Thaksin back into power. Thaksin was among 14 anti-government leaders who had arrest warrants issued against them for their role in the civil disturbances, the government said. Four of those leaders surrendered to police. Weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations began winding down when scores of riot police descended on the anti-government protesters Monday to take control of Bangkok. About 123 people, including more than two dozen soldiers, were wounded in the skirmishes, the government said Tuesday. Two more people were killed when protesters clashed with demonstrators supporting the government. The protesters stopped their demonstrations Tuesday after it had become clear they were surrounded and out-gunned by the Thai army — which had already shown its willingness to open fire. See images from the protests Veera Musikapong, one of the leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, told supporters to suspend their rallies until after the Thai New Year. The new year, or Songkran, began Monday and is traditionally celebrated over several days. It is expected to wind down on Thursday. Thaksin previously called for his followers to engage in a revolution but later pushed for an end to violence. “We absolutely reject any form of violence, and reject the efforts of such enemies to tarnish what we stand for, to portray us as a mob, and to legitimize a crackdown on our people,” he said in an open letter to the Thai people issued Tuesday. Thaksin said the pro-democracy movement called on Thai demonstrators to stand down Tuesday to avoid a bloodbath.

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“Confronted with tanks, thousands of soldiers and armed militias, and faced with the government’s false pretext of restoring law and order, the leadership of the pro-democracy movement rightly assessed that both their people and innocent bystanders would be badly injured and even get slaughtered if they remained on the streets. The leaders’ number one priority was protecting lives, and I commend them for putting the people first.” Watch Thaksin denounce government »

He emphasized that the pro-democracy movement must be peaceful. “I reiterate my call here to all my fellow Thais that our struggle for democracy must be non-violent. We must build the future we seek through the force of our ideas and our principles, and resist all the suppressive and aggressive attempts by the state and state-sponsored thugs to provoke us and incite us to violence,” he said.