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Former Sri Lanka leader targets Thailand

Thailand will allow a “temporary stay” for former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled his island nation last month in the midst of mass protests.

Sri Lanka Photo Gallery Mass protests led to the escape overseas in July of Sri Lanka's then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
August 11, 2022
11 August 2022

Sri Lanka’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to arrive in Thailand and stay temporarily in a second Southeast Asian country since fleeing his island nation last month in the midst of mass protests.

Rajapaksa fled to Singapore on July 14 and resigned from office shortly afterwards, following mass unrest over his government’s handling of the country’s worst economic crisis in seven decades, and days after thousands of protesters stormed the president’s official residence and office.

The former military officer, who is the first Sri Lankan head of state to quit mid-term, is expected to travel from Singapore to Thailand’s capital of Bangkok on Thursday, two sources said. 

Exiled former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will head to Thailand. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

Thai authorities said Rajapaksa had no intention of seeking political asylum and would only stay temporarily.

“This is a humanitarian issue and there is an agreement that it’s a temporary stay,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters on Wednesday.

Prayuth also said Rajapaksa could not participate in any political activities while in Thailand.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said the current Sri Lankan government supported Rajapaksa’s trip to Thailand, adding the former president’s diplomatic passport would allow him to stay for 90 days.

A man plays piano at the prime minister’s official residence on the second day after it was it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is a result of several factors including Covid-19, which battered its tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from workers overseas, rising oil prices, populist tax cuts and a seven-month ban on the import of chemical fertilisers last year that devastated agriculture.

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