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The ex-Sri Lankan leader arrives in Bangkok after fleeing protests

#exSri #Lankan #leader #arrives #Bangkok #fleeing #protests

Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in Bangkok on Thursday after his visa expired after a month-long stay in Singapore where he had sought refuge from protesters at home.

The deposed leader landed by private jet at Don Mueang International Airport around 8 p.m. local time (1200 GMT), a senior Thai official said.

About 40 minutes later, he and his wife left the airport’s VIP area and boarded a black limousine, local media reported.

Rajapaksa flew to Singapore from the Maldives on July 14 after fleeing a deepening economic crisis and widespread protests in Sri Lanka. Shortly after his arrival, he submitted his resignation.

Sri Lankans arriving in Singapore are normally given 30-day visas, but authorities said they initially granted Rajapaksa just two weeks and later extended the visa for another two weeks.

“Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) confirms that Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa departed Singapore on August 11,” Singapore’s immigration service responded to an AFP query.

The Thai Foreign Ministry and a source in Colombo said on Wednesday that he was looking for a new safe haven in Thailand.

Rajapaksa fled his country after tens of thousands of protesters overran his official residence last month, angry at the acute food, fuel and medicine shortages that Sri Lanka’s 22 million residents have been suffering since late last year.

An international human rights group last month officially called on Singapore to charge Rajapaksa with crimes against humanity during his country’s decades-long civil war that ended in 2009.

The South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project said it had urged Singapore to exercise universal jurisdiction to arrest the former president for serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Rajapaksa headed Sri Lanka’s defense ministry while his brother Mahinda was president when the country’s brutal Tamil separatist conflict came to a bloody end.

The Singapore Attorney General’s Chamber confirmed that it had received a complaint from the rights group, without giving details.

“His Singapore visa expires on Thursday,” a close Rajapaksa aide told AFP in Colombo on Wednesday.

“He had applied for an extension but it hadn’t gone through as of Wednesday morning.”

– ‘No political asylum’ –

The source said Rajapaksa is planning a short stay in Thailand and will return to Singapore.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry confirmed it had received a request from Colombo to visit the 73-year-old deposed leader and received assurances he would not seek political asylum.

“The Thai side has received a request from the current government of Sri Lanka for the former President to enter Thailand,” ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said in a statement.

“The stay is of a temporary nature with the aim of onward travel. No political asylum was requested.”

Rajapaksa’s confidante told AFP that the former leader was keen to go home as anti-government protests fizzled out, but his successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, advised against returning early.

Singapore officials had said he was in the city-state on a private visit, and the foreign minister stressed he would not be given any special privileges.

“In general, the government of Singapore does not grant privileges, immunity and hospitality to former heads of state or government,” Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a written response to a parliamentary question last week.

“Consequently, no privileges, immunity or hospitality were granted to former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.”

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