Thailand allows Sri Lanka’s former president into the country

BenarNews staff
2022.08.10
Bangkok
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Thailand allows Sri Lanka’s former president into the country Then-Sri Lankan presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves as he leaves the election commission after filing his nomination in Colombo, Oct. 7, 2019.
Eranga Jayawardena/AP

Thailand’s prime minister and foreign minister said Wednesday that Bangkok would allow ousted former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to enter and stay in the country conditionally for up to 90 days after he fled Colombo amid massive anti-government protests.

Rajapaksa went to the Maldives briefly on July 13, and then to Singapore, after protesters stormed his residence in the Sri Lankan capital during demonstrations where people vented their rage over his government’s handling of the island nation’s worst-ever economic crisis.

After arriving in Singapore, Rajapaksa announced his resignation on July 14, leading to a sudden change in Sri Lanka’s government – the first time in the country’s 74-year history that a president had resigned while in office.

“This is [a] humanitarian matter. There is an agreement that [he] stay temporarily – no politics, no visits, no meeting, no movement at all,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha told reporters on Wednesday, specifying that Rajapaksa could not take part in any meetings about Sri Lankan politics while in Thailand.

Don Pramudwinai, the Thai foreign minister, said the application for entry for Rajapaksa, 73, the holder of a diplomatic passport, was being backed by the new Sri Lankan government.

“So the holder of a diplomatic passport [from] our friendly countries can stay up to 90 days. We, the foreign ministry, don’t see it as a problem. No objection from the government either ... There is no indication that Sri Lankan nationals living here would cause trouble to Thailand,” Don told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Tanee Sangrat, chief spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it had received a request from the current Sri Lankan government for Thailand to allow Rajapaksa in. In a statement to reporters, Tanee said that with his diplomatic passport, Rajapaksa could enter and stay for 90 days without a visa.

“The stay is temporary in nature with the aim of onward travel. No political asylum has been sought,” Tanee said.  

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People throng Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo for a second day after anti-government protesters stormed it, July 11, 2022. [AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool]

During the recent turmoil, his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister in Gotabaya’s government. 

The turmoil, which had been building for months, saw millions of Sri Lankans grow desperate as households nationwide had to endure power outages, long lines for gasoline and shortages of food. 

Many Sri Lankans accused the Rajapaksa brothers and their relatives who held posts in the administration of being deeply corrupt, spending lavish sums of taxpayer money on ambitious infrastructure projects, and running Sri Lanka’s government as though it were a family-owned business, according to news reports.

Gotabaya, a dual U.S.-Sri Lankan citizen who served as defense chief under then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, oversaw a crushing military offensive in 2009 that put an end to a 26-year war with Tamil Tiger separatist rebels and killed their leader.

Although the brothers were praised as heroes as the time for ending the rebellion, both have since been tied to allegations of atrocities and human rights abuses committed against civilians from the ethnic Tamil minority as military forces swept to victory against the Tamil Tigers in their northern Sri Lankan stronghold.    

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