Democrat Party will impeach FM Surapong for alleged role in Thaksin’s Japan visa

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BANGKOK, Aug 18 – The opposition Democrat Party on Thursday resolved to seek to impeach and file criminal charges against new Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul for ignoring to proceed to carry out the arrest of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Democrat MP Nipit Intarasombate, chief of the Democrat Party’s legal team, announced the opposition’s move following remarks of Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano that Japan decided to issue a visa for the ex-premier Thaksin in light of the request from the Thai government.

Mr Nipit said the foreign minister has not acted to seek the arrest of the ousted premier, but on the contrary, provided help for him.

The Democrat spokesman cited the remarks of the Japanese government official as evidence which confirmed that it was the Thai government which requested Japan to allow Mr Thaksin to enter the country.

Mr Surapong also met with the Japanese ambassador to Thailand before the new government delivers its state policy to the Thai parliament, the action which is considered as violating the Constitution, Article 176.

“The Democrat party legal team resolved to file an impeachment of Mr Surapong and will collect the names of 125 MPs, one in four of the total parliamentary seats of 500,” said Mr Nipit.

“Legal proceedings will also be filed against the foreign minister as the law indicates that those who facilitate escape for persons fleeing a court’s detention order could face maximum 3-year jail term or Bt6,000,” he said.

Mr Nipit asserted the foreign minister is well informed that Mr Thaksin planned to enter Japan. Instead of coordinating with the Office of Attorney General and the police to bring him back for prosecution, the minister stayed inactive on the matter and asked Japan to facilitate the trip of the convicted ex-premier.

After the news conference ended, the Democrat legal team reportedly filed charges against the foreign minister at Phaya Thai Police Station.

The collection of names for the impeachment motion is expected to be complete within one day and the petition will be submitted to the Senate Speaker, who will also forward the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for investigation with condition that at least one in third senators endorsing the petition.

Ousted in a bloodless coup in Sept 2006, Mr Thaksin is still a fugitive as he was convicted in 2007 under the anti-graft law for a conflict of interest over the Ratchadapisek land scandal and the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders had sentenced him to serve a two-year jail term.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano earlier confirmed that Japan issued a visa to Mr Thaksin who planned to visit Japan Aug 22-28 to give a special lecture on trade, and to tour northeastern areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami after the Thai government took “a policy of not prohibiting former prime minister from visiting any country and requested that Japan issue a visa.”

Mr Surapong also told media that the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, Seiji Kojima, met him Friday at Pheu Thai Party headquarters when he asked about the policies of the new government and the planned visit of Mr Thaksin.

Meanwhile, Tul Sitthisomwong, leader of the so-called Multi-Coloured Group, on Thursday led a number of supporters, amid tight security, to the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok to submit a letter to the ambassador regarding Mr Thaksin’s planned visit.

Mr Tul, who also serves as coordinator of the Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land, said the petition urges Japanese living in Thailand and at home to file police complaints against the convicted Thai premier’s presence in Japan to return him back to Thailand for prosecution.

The activist said he believes the Japanese people love their country and respect the law, while urging them to question their government about the special entry visa for Mr Thaksin who fled prosecution in Thailand as Japanese law bans the entry of anyone found guilty of a crime and given a jail term of more than one year.

As the Thai government claimed it was not involved with the visa process and it was Japanese government who granted the visa to Mr Thaksin, Mr Tul said Japan should show documents proving that it was the Thai government which made such request.

The multi-coloured leader conceded, however, that he will not be able to influence the Japanese government, but hopes that it will reflect some point of view of Thai people on the matter back to Japan.