THAKSIN Shinawatra, now a full-fledged convict on the run, might have sensed that the revocation of his UK visa was coming. It was surely a setback to his plan to seek asylum in England, while scheming to seek a return to political power back home. The harsher blow was more to his king-sized ego. The revocation must have eroded his confidence by a considerable degree. He can no longer return to live in his plush mansion in Surrey and enjoy the hospitality of Britain, selected as his place of refuge. He has also made his wife suffer because she too is barred from entering Britain.
It has yet to be determined what will be the eventual effects of the visa revocation. Will the 27-member countries of the EU adopt the same policy for Thaksin if he tries to enter continental Europe or Scandinavia?
There was no explanation about the decision. One might suspect that the directive was beyond the discretion of British bureaucrats. The tainted image of the fugitive couple relating to their conflicts of interest, tax evasion, human rights abuse and pending charges for dishonest practices surely ranked high in the equation.
The more frightening prospects for Thaksin are that he might not be able to visit the 54 British Commonwealth countries spanning the globe, which include the Bahamas, and neighbouring countries to Thailand. For Thaksin, the world is not that large anymore.
His would-be hosts in the Bahamas are fuming after learning about the UK visa revocation. Being an honorary citizen of the island nation could provide him with a break, but it would require him to renounce his Thai citizenship within 12 months if he wants to become a permanent resident there and adopt citizenship.
The Bahamas, by law, might be willing to welcome a two-faced couple with a lot of money, never mind the source, but the country does not accept people with dual citizenship. Of course, if Thaksin gets his way in the future, such as through an amnesty or by other means, he could then reclaim his Thai citizenship. Until then, he will have to bear all inconveniences caused by Britain’s action.
If his travels are limited to certain countries that provide pleasant but temporary surroundings, he might feel growing anxiety about where he can settle down for a long period. Certainly his options to use foreign countries as a base for his attempted political comeback are now limited. There were news reports that he has bought another luxury mansion on a fine golf course in Beijing‘s suburbs. That’s highly unlikely as there are possibilities he could be deemed persona non grata there also. As of now, he is being hosted by a billionaire friend and business partner.
Being in Asia, and just a stone’s throw from home, the proximity of China would suit him well, allowing him to jet back and forth between there and Hong Kong for further political scheming. It remains to be seen whether the influence of his powerful friend can protect him from Beijing’s wrath if he continues to foment unrest in Thailand.
Chinese government authorities are watching Thaksin with a wary eye, of course. They would never consider him more significant than their overall relations with Thailand. It would not be a surprise if he is ejected from China, as well as barred from entering Hong Kong once his game plan becomes known.
His latest words from Beijing were that he had decided on his own not to seek asylum in Britain. It was ironic that a “mature democratic country” should treat him as an undesirable person even though he claims repeatedly that he upholds democracy in his heart and soul.
The whole world is awaiting his next move. Thaksin also looks around to consider where he can go next to continue his plot to regain power. The phone-in speech has backfired, causing severe damage.
In his heyday, Thaksin was warned that unrestrained abuse of power and blatant corruption would make him persona non grata. That has become a prophecy fulfilled. Yet Thaksin remains adamant that all this misfortune and dishonour is the result of a conspiracy.
Disgraced and with limited freedom of movement, Thaksin’s cronies are likely to intensify their plot to get the boss out of serious trouble through legislation rammed through the House. This is likely to lead to opposition and confrontation. Further bloodshed cannot be ruled out.
Thaksin no longer has the luxury of time. His puppet government is in the same predicament, with scores of ex-Cabinet members and their cronies facing the likelihood of prison. Desperate measures to save their skins are predictable.