Gotabaya Rajapaksa leaves Singapore for Thailand after short-term visit pass expires

FORMER Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has left Singapore, after his short-term visit pass expired on Thursday (Aug 11).

On Thursday morning, Rajapaksa boarded a flight from Singapore to Bangkok, after Thailand confirmed a day before that it had received a request from the current Sri Lankan government for him to visit the country.

Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the media on Wednesday that permission was granted on humanitarian reasons, according to the Bangkok Post, while the nation's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said Rajapaksa will enter the country with a diplomatic passport, which would allow him to stay 90 days.

Thailand is the second South-east Asian country Rajapaksa is seeking temporary shelter in after he fled his island nation last month amid mass protests.

He flew to Singapore on Jul 14, via the Maldives, following unprecedented unrest triggered by Sri Lanka's worst economic crisis in 7 decades, and days after thousands of protesters stormed the president's official residence and office.

Shortly after he arrived in Singapore, Rajapaksa, 73, tendered his resignation as the country's leader.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said on his arrival in Singapore that the former president had been allowed entry on a private visit on a 14-day visit pass and had not asked for asylum.

This pass was later extended for another 14 days.

While in Singapore, Rajapaksa kept a low profile and was not seen in public.

He initially stayed at a hotel in the city centre, but was believed to have moved to a private residence.

It is not clear how long Rajapaksa will remain in Thailand or what his next destination may be.

Don said the Thai government believed Rajapaksa's stay would not cause any trouble for Thailand, and that the Sri Lankan government did not oppose the decision, according to the Bangkok Post.

According to Reuters, Thai foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said that Rajapaksa's stay in Thailand was temporary, and that "The Sri Lankan side informs us that the former president has no intention for political asylum in Thailand and will travel to another country afterwards".

On Jul 31, Sri Lanka's new President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was voted in by lawmakers earlier last month, told the Wall Street Journal that he did not think it was a right time for Rajapaksa to return to the country as this could inflame political tensions.

Sri Lanka remains mired in economic crisis, with the country's central bank expecting inflation to increase to 70 per cent this month. THE STRAITS TIMES


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