UK-born Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has admitted in a parliamentary session that he has not yet renounced his British citizenship:
“…You are not curious whether I hold Thai citizenship, but “you’re curious if I hold British citizenship, I’ll answer you directly that”. “You ask have I ever formally renounced my British citizenship, I admit I have not renounced my British citizenship because it is understood legally that if the nationality laws are conflicting, the Thai law must be used”.
“My intention is clear. I was born in England but I consider myself a Thai. I studied in England but I intended to return to work and live in Thailand, to work for the country’s interest and didn’t think of anything else.”
(Translation provided by blogger Bangkok Pundit)
Abhisit became prime minister of Thailand in 2008. His admission that he is still a British citizen does not disqualify him as a member of parliament since his parents are Thai citizens and this legally makes him qualified to hold public office.
It was the opposition who first questioned the citizenship of Abhisit because they intend to bring the Prime Minister to the International Criminal Court for allegedly committing crimes against humanity. Thailand has not yet ratified the ICC Statute but the United Kingdom is a signatory.
Abhisit is accused of of ordering the military to violently disperse anti-government protests in Bangkok last year which resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.
Tony on Thailand muses why Abhisit was reluctant to admit his British citizenship:
As a British Citizen myself it almost seems madness that anyone could renounce their citizenship! As far as I am aware there is no British legal way to do this even if you wanted to. And why would you want to?
The whole debate on whether or not Mark A Vejjajiva is British or not is a nonsense. He is. He may have dual nationality, that’s fine, nothing wrong with that.
The reason he is trying to say he is not a British Citizen is firstly because he is worried he might fall foul of any Thai law that says foreigners can’t be in politics but mostly he is worried that he could be arrested if he left Thailand by the International Criminal Court, if action against him personally is successful. And we all know how Mark hates to take responsibility.
Robert Amsterdam, the lawyer of ousted Thai leader and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is the person who filed a case against Abhisit in the ICC:
First, given Thailand’s long history of granting state officials complete impunity for massacres of this kind, and the ongoing attempt to whitewash this most recent incident, the ICC still represents the best hope to bring Thai generals and politicians to justice. Second, given the Thai media’s reluctance to demand the truth, their unwillingness to engage in any kind of investigative journalism, and (in the case of the English-language press) the zeal with which they have defended the regime’s impunity, it was important to collect evidence to rebut the government’s lies and expose its empty promises of “reconciliation.”
Tasty Thailand believes that Abhisit can use his British citizenship to flee Thailand in the future:
The simple fact of the matter is, he doesn't want to renounce his British citizenship because, after all, if things go pear-shaped in Thailand and he has to flee the country like Thaksin did, unlike Thaksin who was pretty much asked to leave the UK, Abhisit, as a British citizen, would have every right to stay there.
Tulsathit Taptim, writing for The Nation newspaper, believes the citizenship issue will continue to haunt Abhisit:
What Abhisit said in Parliament on Thursday is on the record. Shall we presume that he was well aware what it would be like if he were to be caught giving distorted information or telling a lie? The citizenship issue has opened him up to new scrutiny.
A few days ago, the opposition formally asked the British government to review if Abhisit has used his citizenship rights in the past. The video showing the confession of Abhisit in parliament is available online (February 24, 2011).