Germany bans Thai ex-leader Thaksin

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand's globe-trotting, fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra is no longer welcome in Germany and will be arrested if he returns there, a foreign ministry official said Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry was notified about the ban in an official letter from the German Embassy last week, said Chavanont Intarakomalyasut, a ministry spokesman.

"I have been told by the embassy that if Thaksin enters Germany again he will be detained," Chavanont told The Associated Press.

The ban strikes another country off the map for Thaksin, who continues to roam the globe with a variety of passports and elude Thai authorities who say they are trying to extradite him.

Britain revoked Thaksin's visa in November 2008, a month after a Thai court convicted him of corruption and sentenced the tycoon to two years in prison. That ban blocked Thaksin from returning to his posh London town house where he had been living in self-imposed exile.

Thaksin's international wanderings followed his ouster in a 2006 coup after six years as prime minister.

The 59-year-old former telecommunications tycoon has been on the run on-and-off since the coup, surfacing most recently in Dubai, Nicaragua and Liberia in pursuit of investment opportunities. He has also been spotted playing golf in Bali, shopping at upscale malls in Hong Kong and on trips to China and Australia.

Thailand revoked Thaksin's personal and diplomatic passports, but he has acquired passports from Nicaragua and Montenegro. A Thaksin aide said last month he was considering buying a resort island in the tiny Balkan state, despite claims he was short on cash because the Thai government had frozen his assets.

A German Embassy spokesman did not immediately return calls regarding the ban, which the Foreign Ministry said was issued in December.

It was not immediately clear if the ban was prompted by heated political protests that had gripped Thailand in December, which the government said had been stoked by Thaksin from overseas. Despite his conviction, Thaksin retains support from rural voters who benefited from his policies of universal health care and low-interest loans for the poor.

Germany placed Thaksin on a "national exemption" list in December that barred him from entering the country, said Chavanont.

German authorities then learned that Thaksin had entered the country using a so-called Schengen visa, traveling by car from a neighboring country and had received a one-year Bonn residency permit on Dec. 29, said Chavanont. The visa allows travel between more than a dozen European Union countries that have lifted land border checks.

"The federal government of Germany ordered the Bonn authorities to revoke the resident permit on May 28," Chavanont said.

A black panther cub is seen in the grass at the Tierpark zoo in Berlin. AP Photo/Maya Hitij