The military junta yesterday revoked the passports of six dissidents living overseas in a move to block their capacity to travel and force them to return home. The Foreign Ministry cancelled the travel documents on June 26, permanent-secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow said.
The six whose passports have been revoked are former Pheu Thai leader Charupong Ruangsuwan, Pheu Thai member Sunai Julpongsathorn, along with members of the red-shirt movement - Jakrapob Penkair, Chatwadee Amornpat, Ekkapob Luara and Attachai Anuntamek.
The junta said the passports were revoked because the six individuals refused to respond to its summonses and now face criminal charges.
Sihasak said since Thailand does not have an extradition agreement with Hong Kong, where Jakrapob is believed to be hiding, his situation requires further discussion.
Jakrapob - who has been living overseas since 2009 - said this revocation of passports would only make those standing against the junta into political fugitives.
And the termination of travel documents has not always helped bring dissidents back home.
In 2009, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government revoked former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's passport because he allegedly tried to provoke the red shirts into disrupting the ASEAN Summit in Pattaya in April of that year. Thaksin has lived abroad on the run from a two-year jail term after being convicted over a land-purchase scandal.
However, the revocation of Thaksin's passport has done little to stop him, as he has been granted citizenship and travel documents by other countries. When Thaksin's sister Yingluck became prime minister in 2011, he was re-issued a Thai passport because her government did not regard him as a threat to the country.
Meanwhile, Attorney-General spokesman Nantasak Poolsuk said his office was ready to seek extradition of Jakrapob once it receives a police request as he faced another arrest warrant for alleged links to war weapons seized recently. However, he said he was unsure if his office or the military would handle the legal case because arrest warrants had been issued by the military court.
In a Facebook message on Sunday, Jakrapob denied having anything to do with the arms.
However, deputy police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung said yesterday the recent arrest of eight people responsible for war weapons seized in Wangnoi in Ayutthaya had found that Jakrapob was involved and supported their movement.
Separately, Charupong and Jakrapob launched a social-media-based anti-coup movement called Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy last Tuesday and posted video clips, which were later blocked. The group has also removed its account from Facebook after being attacked by other users.
In his weekly television address on Friday, junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha urged both Charupong and Jakrapob to surrender and defend themselves in court. He also said it was time they came home otherwise the number of cases against them would only grow.
Initially, the ruling National Council for Peace and Order called all conflicting factions to report themselves.
However, it was mostly those fighting against the former Pheu Thai-led government who complied, while government supporters resisted. When the junta issued warrants to bring them in, some went into hiding.