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Sri Lankan ex-president Rajapaksa arrives in Bangkok after fleeing protests

  • 11 Aug 2022

Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew into Singapore from the Maldives on July 14 after fleeing a deepening economic crisis and widespread protests in his home country, and tendered his resignation shortly after his arrival.

Rajapaksa fled his nation after tens of thousands of protesters overran his official residence last month. ( Tananchai KEAWSOWATTANA / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP )

Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has arrived in Bangkok after his visa ran out following a month-long stint in Singapore where he had taken refuge from protesters at home.

The deposed leader landed on a private jet at Don Mueang International Airport around 8:00 pm local time (1200 GMT) on Thursday, a senior Thai official said.

Rajapaksa flew into Singapore from the Maldives on July 14 after fleeing a deepening economic crisis and widespread protests in Sri Lanka, and tendered his resignation shortly after his arrival.

Sri Lankans arriving in Singapore normally receive a 30-day visa, but authorities said they had initially given Rajapaksa only two weeks and later extended the visa by another two weeks.

The Thai foreign ministry, as well as a source in Colombo, had said on Wednesday that he was seeking a new safe haven in Thailand.

'No political asylum'

"His Singapore visa runs out on Thursday," a close associate of Rajapaksa in Colombo said on Wednesday. "He had applied for an extension, but it had not come through as of Wednesday morning."

The source said Rajapaksa planned a short stay in Thailand and would return to Singapore.

The Thai foreign ministry confirmed it had received a request from Colombo for the 73-year-old deposed leader to visit and an assurance that he would not seek political asylum.

The Rajapaksa confidant said that the former leader was keen to go home as protests against his administration had fizzled out, but his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe had advised him against an early return.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka's ousted president seeks temporary stay in Thailand

Singapore officials had said he was on a private visit to the city-state and the foreign minister stressed that he was not given any special privileges.

"In general, the Singapore government does not accord privileges, immunity and hospitality to former heads of state or heads of government," Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a written reply to a question in parliament last week. "Consequently, former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not accorded any privileges, immunity or hospitality."

Rajapaksa fled his nation after tens of thousands of protesters overran his official residence last month angry about acute shortages of food, fuel and medicine endured by Sri Lanka's 22 million people since late last year.

READ MORE: World Bank not to offer new funding for bankrupt Sri Lanka

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