Thai envoy seeks OK for Thaksin Japan visit

Kyodo

Japan has received a request to allow former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to visit and will consult Bangkok on whether to issue a special entry permit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Friday.

Thaksin, who was prime minister between 2001 and 2006 before being deposed in a military coup, is living in exile in Dubai to escape a two-year jail term issued after his conviction for corruption.

Under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, any foreigner who has been convicted of breaking a law and issued a prison term of one year or more is denied permission to land in Japan.

But the law makes an exception for those convicted of political offenses, for example, and it says the justice minister can make an exemption in certain other cases if there are reasonable grounds.

Edano’s remark comes a day after Thailand’s new foreign minister, Surapong Tovichakchaiku, reportedly asked for Japan’s help in facilitating Thaksin’s trip. Thaksin’s youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was this week sworn is as Thailand’s new prime minister.

The 44-year-old former businesswoman swept to power after her pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai party defeated the Democrat Party in last month’s general poll.

Thaksin wants to travel to Japan from Aug. 22 to 28 to visit areas in Miyagi Prefecture devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, his Japanese supporters said.

They also said the former Thai leader hopes to hold a news conference and speak at a lecture meeting.

Earlier this month, senior Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Hajime Ishii told reporters he had asked Prime Minister Naoto Kan to allow Thaksin’s visit.

“It is said that his entry presents problems. But Thailand is an important country and I told the prime minister to make a political decision,” Ishii said Aug. 3.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Thursday he was unaware about the meeting between the new foreign minister and the Japanese ambassador, while other Thai officials said they had no details regarding their discussions.

Also Thursday, Surapong told reporters he would find out possible procedures to get Thaksin’s Thai passport reinstated, a move that could spark criticism of the new administration.