The US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe has invited Thaksin Shinawatra to address a forum titled “Thailand: Democracy, Governance and Human Rights” in Washington on Dec 16. The request is quite curious given that Thaksin is currently subject to several arrest warrants from Thailand and that the USA has an US extradition treaty with Thailand. Further there are specific barriers to requesting a B1 or B2 (tourist or temporary business visa to the USA) when the applicant has a criminal record (which Thaksin does).
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is also known as the Helsinki Commission and is an an agency of the US government. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine members from the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
When applying for a B1 or B2 visa at a US Embassy criminal convictions must be listed by the applicant on Question 38 of Form DS-156 (Documentation of the conviction and foreign law may be submitted as well). The consular officer can make a decision as to whether or not Thaksin Shinawatra is eligible for a visa.
Assuming the US Embassy Grants a visa, the ball will the be in Thailand’s court as to whether they will seek extradition of Thaksin. Thailand has recently granted USA’s extradition request of Viktor Bout. Viktor Bout’s Thailand attorney objected to the extradition based on the offense being a “political offense” because the extradition treaty has an exception for political offenses which would not be subject to extradition. If Thaksin was arrested in the US based on the Thai warrants, his defense would likely be based on the same clause of the extradition treaty that provides an exception for political offenses.
In this game of Siamese Poker, the unanswered questions are:
1. Does the present Thai government really want Thaksin back when there is a risk of further and more protests by his supporters if he returns and is imprisoned and tried.
2. Does Thaksin really want to risk that the Thai government is sincere in their requests for his arrest?
3. Would the USA honor the request for extradition after having invited Thaksin to the US in the first place? Would the US Embassy (in whatever country Thaksin resides) even grant a visa to Thaksin?
4. What is the motivation of the US Commission on Security and Cooperation? Are they aware of the extradition and visa situation? Is this an error of judgment or is there an ulterior motive?