Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Ousted Sri Lankan leader seeking travel permission

11 Aug 2022, 14:58 GMT+10

The former president resigned and took off for Singapore in July amid mass protests

Sri Lanka's ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested entry to Thailand, weeks after stepping down and hastily fleeing his country during a heated round of anti-government demonstrations.

A spokesman for Thailand's Foreign Ministry, Tanee Sangrat, announced the request in a string of tweets on Wednesday, saying officials were contacted by the current authorities in Sri Lanka and asked whether Rajapaksa could travel to the Southeast Asian country.

"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 long-standing and cordial ties between the two countries," Sangrat said, adding that Rajapaksa's stay would be "temporary" and had the "aim of onward travel."

While the spokesman offered few other details about the proposed arrangement, he noted that any holder of a Sri Lankan passport is permitted to enter Thailand without a visa for a period of 90 days, suggesting the former president would be no exception. He did not indicate Rajapaksa's final destination or when he intended to travel to Thailand, but clarified that the ex-leader is not seeking political asylum from the Thai government.

READ MORE: Sri Lankan president resigned by email - media

Rajapaksa ended up in Singapore on July 14 after first fleeing to the Maldives on a military jet the day before. He was initially prevented from leaving Sri Lanka by airport officials, as it is widely believed he was seeking to avoid detention once his presidential immunities expired, but ultimately escaped amid a massive spike in unrest over alleged mismanagement by his administration, among other grievances. Officials in Singapore have said Rajapaksa is merely on a "private visit" and has not applied for asylum.

Under Rajapaksa's leadership, Sri Lanka was driven to bankruptcy, defaulting on its foreign debts in May and introducing fuel rationing in July. The economic turmoil prompted a wave of protests which came to a head last month, when a mob stormed the presidential residence and forced Rajapaksa to flee.

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