Thailand’s government has confirmed it has lifted a ban on ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra holding a Thai passport.
Mr Shinawatra was ousted in a coup in 2006 and has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid jail for what he says is a questionable conflict-of-interest conviction.
He was banned from holding a Thai passport in 2009 and became a citizen of Montenegro in order to continue travelling.
Thailand’s new government, led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, has now reinstated his passport, saying he poses no security risk.
“This normal passport has nothing to do with extradition or whether he’s innocent, but only his nationality,” foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said.
“No government agency, including the police – judiciary and interior ministry – opposed the re-issue of Thaksin’s passport.”
He still cannot return to Thailand unless he receives a pardon or is given an amnesty, both vehemently opposed by his critics.
Yingluck Shinawatra won a resounding election victory earlier this year in the wake of mass opposition protests in 2010 by his “Red Shirt” supporters which ended with a bloody army crackdown.
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul told reporters two weeks ago that Thailand would give Mr Shinawatra a passport “very soon”.
Ministry spokesman Mr Thongphakdi said Mr Surapong had not been aware at the time that the document had already been issued.
Political tension remains in the capital where a number of small explosive devices have recently been found and defused by police.