Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who was Thailand’s foreign minister in 2011, has been given a two year jail sentence for malfeasance and dereliction of duty over his reissuing of passports at the time for fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Supreme Court ruling follows 2017 impeachment
The Supreme Court’s Political Office Holders Division, in handing out the sentence today, said Surapong’s action went against the Foreign Ministry’s 2005 regulations concerning issuance of passports.
While he was foreign minister, Surapong instructed his ministry to issue two new passports to Thaksin, who had fled Thailand in 2008 to escape a jail term for corruption. Thaksin’s passports had been revoked in late 2008 by the then Democrat Party-led government on the grounds that he was deemed to be damaging Thailand while living and travelling extensively abroad.
Surapong was serving in the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s younger sister and who in 2017 would also flee abroad, just days ahead of a Supreme Court ruling in a negligence case against her relating to her administration’s disastrous rice subsidy scheme. She was sentenced in absentia to five years in jail.
The Supreme Court’s Political Office Holders Division favoured the maximum penalty for Surapong, in that Surapong’s action assisted Thaksin in his travel to foreign countries and that the new passports issued for him damaged the dignity of Thailand’s justice system.
In defending his reissuing of Thaksin’s passports, Surapong had told the media he and Yingluck’s Pheu Thai-led government had agreed Thaksin’s presence overseas caused no damage to Thailand or other countries, and thus he was justified in his move.
Surapong, who has the right to appeal today’s ruling, was impeached last year by the National Legislative Assembly over the passport reissuance.