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Tweeting from Fugitiveland

Thailand's ex-premier is on the run. And he wants the Twitterati to know about it.

By keeping Thaksin on the run, he remains a “fugitive” that “helps the government portray the ‘red shirts’ as illegitimate by association,” said political professor Kevin Hewison, director of the Carolina Asia Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The government appears to crank up its Thaksin hunt each time his supporters become active, Hewison said.

Imprisoning Thaksin, he said, would just stir even more problems for the government. “He'd likely become an imprisoned symbol for opposition,” Hewison said. “Do they want that? No. He is less of a threat, and a declining star for the red shirt supporters, if he is at a distance.”

Authorities likely set the stage for Thaksin’s escape themselves, Ferrara said, by allowing the ex-premier to attend the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing. Thaksin was then on trial for fraud and a guilty verdict was widely assumed. Judges granted him leave, Ferrara said, expecting him to flee.

He has acquired up to six passports – secured from countries including Montenegro and Nicaragua, his political backers said – to traverse the globe and evade capture. Keeping up the appearance of a vigorous chase has helped the Thai government cement Thaksin’s “fugitive” image, Ferrara said.

“Thaksin can only be discredited as a ‘fugitive’ if someone is actually pursuing him,” he said.

“Otherwise he would be merely an ‘exiled politician,’ something that has a much more favorable connotation because it hints at the possibility that the government might either not have the goods on Thaksin or the stomach to lock him up.”