12 Nov 2008

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysia would not object to former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra travelling through its territory, but any request for asylum would have to be evaluated, Foreign Minister Rais Yatim has said.

“It would be all right for Thaksin if he wants to pass through Malaysia. However, if he wants to stay here, then the matter would have to be looked into,” he said in comments reported Wednesday that were confirmed by his aides.

However, Rais did not say whether any request for transit or asylum had been received.

Thaksin, toppled in a military coup in September 2006, was last month sentenced in absentia to two years in jail by a Thai court for conflict of interest after helping his wife, Pojaman, buy state-owned land when he was premier.

He has spent most of his time since the coup in self-imposed exile in Britain, where he bought and then sold Manchester City football club.

Thaksin returned to Thailand in February this year but swiftly fled again in August after his wife was sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion.

However, Britain recently revoked his visa, without explaining why.

He is now believed to be searching for asylum in another country.

The Philippines said this week he would be turned away if he applied for asylum there amid reports in Thai media that the island nation was next on his itinerary, after a recent visit to China.

Malaysia typically takes care not to upset relations with its northern neighbour Thailand, where Thaksin’s brother-in-law — Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat — is now in charge.