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Thai PM insists he’s not a UK citizen, but political foes demand proof.
Abhisit denies holding U.K. citizenship and claims, through an aide, that he renounced it as a young man studying in England. When traveling to the U.K., Abhisit requests a visa just like any other Thai, he said.
The British government, however, would not confirm the renunciation when contacted by GlobalPost. “We don’t comment on individual cases,” said Sam Eversden with the U.K. Home Office. “Even if it’s the prime minister of Thailand.”
Abhisit was undoubtedly a U.K. citizen at one point. The prime minister was born in Newcastle, England, in 1964 to Thai parents. Anyone born on British soil before 1983 was automatically conferred U.K. citizenship by law.
The premier’s name at birth was “Mark A. Vejjajiva,” according to a U.K. birth registry obtained by GlobalPost through an online records agency. He also holds Thai citizenship, as does any person born to two parents with Thai citizenship regardless of location.
“He has the right to citizenship in both countries: one obtained from blood, one obtained from being born on the land,” said Bongkot Napaumporn from the Bangkok Legal Clinic at Thailand’s Thammasat University. “There is no law forbidding double citizens.”
Though any proof of U.K. citizenship would scar Abhisit politically, it probably wouldn’t terminate his premiership.
There is no Thai law forcing politicians to renounce their second citizenship before assuming power, Bongkot said. However, a second citizenship can be revoked if Thai authorities determine it jeopardizes national security, she said.
Thaksin’s lawyers contend the burden of proof lies with Abhisit. They’ve demanded he reveal documents proving his U.K. citizenship was revoked.
Thaksin’s citizenship status has also been scrutinized. Though he retains Thai citizenship, his Thai passport has been invalidated by the government. He has since acquired citizenship in Montenegro. The Thai government has also accused him of procuring five other passports and traveling under the name “Takki Shinegra.”
Though still influential among working-class Thais, the twice-elected former prime minister has not returned to Thailand for fear of a two-year prison sentence for fraud and terrorism charges stemming from last year’s protests.