Sri Lanka’s Ousted President To Remain in Thailand for Now

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would remain in the kingdom while he seeks asylum abroad.

Gen Prayut declared that Thailand had received Mr. Rajapaksa for humanitarian reasons and promised not to engage in political activities while the retired military officer sought a third country offering him permanent refuge.

“This is a humanitarian issue. We have made a promise that it’s a temporary stay. No [political] activities are allowed, and this will help him find a country to take refuge in,” the prime minister stated.

Thailand would be the second country in Southeast Asia that Mr. Rajapaksa visited after he fled his native country last month amid massive protests.

The former Sri Lankan president went to Singapore for a temporary stay on July 14 after the country’s worst economic crisis in seven decades triggered unprecedented riots. Thousands of protesters stormed his residence and office, forcing him to resign.

Mr. Rajapaksa became the first Sri Lankan head of state to step down mid-term.

According to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the ousted president has been authorized to stay in Thailand for 90 days under his diplomatic passport.

Mr. Don clarified that Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit to Thailand did not raise conflicts with Sri Lanka, as the Thai government would not make arrangements for his accommodation. In addition, the country’s interim president Ranil Wickremesinghe had worked for the former leader while he was in power.

The only condition that Mr. Rajapaksa must meet is to avoid causing trouble for the country.

Thailand’s Information Department’s director general Tanee Sangrat issued a statement on Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit, saying: “The Thai side received a request for the former president to enter Thailand from the current government of Sri Lanka. The consideration was based on longstanding and cordial ties between the two countries.”

“The former president is able to enter Thailand without a visa for a period of 90 days, according to the 2013 Agreement on Visa Exemption between Thailand and Sri Lanka. The stay is temporary in nature with the aim of forward travel. No political asylum has been sought,” Mr. Tanee clarified.

International media quoted sources close to the president as saying that he is expected to head to Bangkok today.