Thaksin Shinawatra, the former-Prime Minister of Thailand who was overthrown in a 2006 coup and went into self-imposed exile in Dubai, could soon be getting his passport back.
Foriegn Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul said on Friday that a new Thai passport could be a New Year's present for Thaksin.
We are considering returning the passport to former prime minister Thaksin and we expect to be able to do so within weeks, Surapong told reporters.
To be fair we are reviewing the laws and we found that the action is possible ... it could be a New Year's present.
Thaksin is a controversial figure in Thailand, a country where politics-as-usual includes riots and military coup d'états.
He was first elected Prime Minister in 2001, but it wasn't until his second term that things spiraled out of control for the businessman- turned-politician, when his questionable tactics caught up with him. He was charged with corruption and abuse of power in connection a number of business dealings. He was also accused of vote-buying, committing human rights abuses and of exhibiting disloyalty to the monarchy.
While attending a United Nations summit in September, 2006, the Thai army took control of the country. After seizing control of the government, the military filed criminal charges against Thaksin, who hasn't returned home since.
But now the Pheu Thai Party -- an off-shoot of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party which was dissolved in 2006 -- is now in power. Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra won the Prime Minister seat earlier this year.
Even before she won the election, there was talk that Yingluck would pardon her brother and perhaps bring him back into the center of Thai politics. Indeed, some voters told reporters at the time that they were voting for Yingluck with hopes that Thaksin would be calling the shots for his politically inexperienced sister.
Yingluck has denied that there is any plan for Thaksin to join Pheu Thai, and she insisted on Friday that the new passport is not her doing.
“I have never interfered in this case and I've left it to the relevant officials, Yingluck said. It is a matter to be decided by the Foreign Ministry, but must be decided in line with the law, and the principles of justice and equality.
Despite the controversy surrounding him, Thaksin is still a popular figure in the country. Moreover, he has been the only Thai Prime Minister to serve a full term in over 50 years and won re-election in 2005 with an overwhelming majority.
It's impossible to know what Thaksin's plan will be if he is able to return to Thailand, but his Thai supporters, and detractors, may soon find out.
I will use my authority to do whatever is not illegal under the regulations of the ministry to give the passport to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin, Surapong said.
We are checking some more details but it will be very soon.