Now Germany and soon Japan: More countries let Thaksin back in

Originally published at Siam Voices on August 15, 2011

We all know Thailand’s ex-prime minister and on-the-run fugitive, Thaksin Shinawatra, is pretty busy traveling the world ever since he’s out of Thailand. When he’s not at his new home base in Dubai, he mostly goes on business trips, for example in Uganda. But the list of countries he can visit has kind of shrunk, despite his new citizenship of Montenegro and his Nicaraguan diplomatic passport. For example, when Thaksin sneaked into Germany and got a permanent residence permit in late 2008, the European country had thrown him out after they have found out about it a few months later.

It is now Germany again, who has recently revoked the entry ban for Thaksin (see previous coverage here), thanks to heavy lobbying by German conservative MPs and officially to the new political “situation in Thailand”, which of course enraged chief Thaksin-hunter Thai foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, on his last days. Well, he might want to cool down now because he won’t like what the Thai media have reported recently.

Matichon and Khao Sod have reported that Thaksin recently has made a trip to Germany and met Thai expat red shirts supporters there, both referring to the website “Thai Red EU” (caution: the website is overloaded with several audio livestreams going off at the same time!). According to the website, Thaksin visited Munich on August 5, on the same day that Yingluck was voted in as prime minister in parliament.

A few days later, on August 9, Thaksin arrived in Hamburg via his personal jet before he met with ‘officials of the UDD EU’ organization. Thaksin then attended a red shirt meeting at Wat Buddhabharami, a local Thai Buddhist temple, where a religious memorial service was held for the victims of last year’s protests. In a speech after the service, he expressed delight to meet “so many Thais at once” and demanded his supporters to remain “patient” about “seeking justice”. He was later seen at a Thai restaurant, dining with fellow red shirts and red organizers from many European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France and Finland. Thaksin then left Hamburg after having spent about five hours in the North-German city. (Source: YouTube video 1, video 2)

Hamburg has a well-organized group of red shirts and it is quite possibly the center of the movement in Germany. The people behind have apparently good connections to Thaksin and are also well-connected to other red shirts all over Europe (although the total number of any group has not been verified yet), as seen during their rally on the eve of the anniversary of the military coup of 2006. What is also striking is that the German red shirts have a heavy focus on Thaksin as their personal champion. When comparing the red shirt rallies worldwide on September 19, 2010, you’ll see that only the rally in Hamburg has references to the former prime minister – let alone a phone-in by him.

Thaksin has also previously entered Finland in mid-July. Reporters of the Helsink-based Helsingin Sanomat have spotted Thaksin during a private shopping trip in the Finish capital and quoted him praising the Scandinavian country and to have come for “over the tenth time.” Finland is part of the Schengen Agreement, which does away with the internal border controls for most of continental Europe. Friends of the infamous Finland Conspiracy will take notice of this.

In related news, the Japanese government has reportedly granted Thaksin a special entry permit. Thaksin hopes to visit the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami later this month, since he has donated an unspecified sum for disaster relief. This comes after the new Thai foreign minister, Surapong Towijakchaikul, had politely addressed the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, whether or not Thaksin could be let in to Japan – to which the ambassador asked if Thailand would mind. It also coincides with reports from Japan that its lawmakers have expressed their wish to let Thaksin in, even having met the former prime minister before last year – see something similar here?

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and now also on his public Facebook page here.