The Thai junta leader said the government will try to cooperate with other countries to extradite lèse majesté suspects back to Thailand to prevent them from undermining the regime from overseas.
According to the Thai News Agency, Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta, revealed during an interview on Tuesday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has sent a letter to the New Zealand authorities in an attempt to try to extradite Ekapop L., an anti-establishment red-shirt activist, who is believed to be in exile in New Zealand.
Ekapop was accused of defaming the monarchy when he spoke at a red-shirt protest at gathering at Rajamangala Stadium in Eastern Bangkok in late 2013. The police issued an arrest warrant against him in early 2014.
Prayut pointed out that the letter was to inform the New Zealand authorities that the Thai authorities had issued an arrest warrant under Article 112 of the Criminal Code against Ekapop, and that in order to prevent the suspect from creating trouble in Thailand from overseas, the New Zealand authorities should cooperate with Thailand to extradite the suspect.
These people, he said, are not political prisoners, because they committed crimes under the Criminal Code, so they are normal criminals.
He also added that the Thai government will continue to send similar letters to other countries which are hosting criminal suspects from Thailand who have engaged in a political movement to undermine his regime from overseas.
Earlier on Monday, according to Bangkokbiznews, Sek Wannamethee, the Director-General and spokesman for the MFA, revealed that last week the MFA had invited Shannon Austin, the Ambassador of New Zealand, for a discussion about the current status of Ekapop and to seek information if he has been granted asylum and was residing in New Zealand as he claimed.
Sek said that the MFA is gravely concerned about the Ekapop case because he is still engaged in political movements against the junta’s reconciliation plan. Therefore, the case might negatively affect relations between Thailand and New Zealand.
When asked what would be the effect if New Zealand has granted political refugee status to Ekapop, Sek mentioned that the Thai authorities expect that the New Zealand authorities would not allow persons who are threats to Thailand’s national security to use their country to facilitate political movements.
Sek added that the Thai Embassy in New Zealand reported that some Thai people in New Zealand are now collecting names to submit a petition to the New Zealand government in order to not allow Ekapop to stay in the country. Some other Thais also sent a letter to John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and opened a Facebook page to campaign against Ekapop.
On 17 December 2014, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, told the media that the Thai authorities are trying to cooperate with other countries to hunt down lèse majesté suspects in exile, one of whom is Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a Thammasat University political historian, who went into self-imposed exile shortly after the coup d’état in May.
“We must express to other countries how these people [lèse majesté suspects] have committed crimes according to Thai law,” Bangkokbiznews quoted Prawit as saying.
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