Ex-Sri Lankan president staying in inner Bangkok

Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa prepares to enter a car after his flight arrived in Bangkok on Thursday evening. (Reuters Photo)

Ousted former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is staying at a hotel in the heart of Bangkok, where police are advising him not to leave for security reasons, a source said on Friday.

Mr Rajapaksa arrived with three other people on a chartered flight from Singapore at Don Mueang International Airport around 8pm on Thursday.

According to the source, the group had planned to land in Phuket but concerns about a possible information leak resulted in the flight being redirected to Bangkok. On arrival, he was escorted by Thai police and military personnel.

At the hotel, the location of which was not disclosed, plainclothes police officers from the Special Branch Bureau have been deployed to ensure safety. Officials have asked the former leader to remain within the hotel during his stay in the country.

Mr Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka on July 14 for Singapore amid massive protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. He resigned from the presidency after arriving in the city-state, where his visa expired this week.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters on Wednesday that Mr Rajapaksa would be allowed to enter Thailand on humanitarian grounds but would be advised to keep a low profile during his stay.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said the former Sri Lankan president could stay for up to 90 days as he carried a diplomatic passport.

Mr Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka.

An international human rights group last month formally asked Singapore to indict the former president for crimes against humanity during his country’s decades-long civil war that ended in 2009.

The South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project said it had urged Singapore to exercise universal jurisdiction to arrest the former president for grave breaches of international humanitarian law.

It is not known whether the same request has been made to Thailand now that Mr Rajapaksa has left Singapore.

Mr Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka’s defence ministry while his brother Mahinda was president when the country’s brutal Tamil separatist conflict came to a bloody end.