A luxury hotel commanding sweeping views of Hong Kong’s picturesque harbor is rolling out the red carpet to host to a wedding bash this Friday to be attended by two self-exiled former Thai prime ministers and members of their powerful Shinawatra family clan.
But news of Thaksin Shinawatra’s planned presence at his youngest daughter’s wedding ceremony at the Rosewood Hong Kong has motivated a formal Thai government request for his extradition, significantly as Thailand prepares for general elections on March 24.
The request has cast a pall over the extravaganza, which some in Hong Kong believe will approximate the lavish wedding scene in rom-com flick Crazy Rich Asians.
News broke earlier this month that Thaksin’s youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, and her fiancé, Pidok Sooksawas, a commercial pilot, had checked into the 70-story upscale hotel on Hong Kong’s bustling Victoria Harbor waterfront.
Family members, including Thaksin’s younger sister and fellow ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as well as his political cronies and protégés, are reportedly set to attend the wedding.
The couple held their traditional engagement party in Bangkok last Sunday, with the self-exiled Thaksin and Yingluck sending their best wishes via video calls.
The Shinawatras regularly visit Hong Kong and are known to use the city as a base to meet political and business partners, as well as muster support for their proxies back in Thailand. Yingluck reportedly did not request VIP protection from local police during her previous trips to the city. Hong Kong does not have a formal extradition treaty with Thailand.
Hong Kong’s Department of Justice declined to confirm if it had received a formal Thai government extradition request or if it would comply, saying it never comments on individual cases.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, however, maintains amicable ties with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s ruling junta, witnessed in her three visits to Bangkok since taking office in July 2017. She has met Thailand’s military leader twice and last month opened a new Hong Kong representative office in Bangkok. She also met Yingluck several times before she was overthrown in Prayut’s May 2014 coup.
The Shinawatra family is known to maintain substantial business stakes in Hong Kong through several locally registered companies, with interests in property realty and container ports. Thaksin’s youngest daughter reportedly bought a posh three-story villa in Kowloon for HK$45 million (US$5.73 million) in 2009. The value of the property has more than tripled in 10 years.
But the Shinawatra’s perceived political activities in Hong Kong frequently cause a stir in Bangkok. Thailand’s Election Commission recently threatened to ban the Thaksin-aligned Peua Thai party after the ex-leader met with some party members in the city. As a fugitive from Thai justice, Thaksin is banned from any association with the party.
Thaksin has consistently denied he has any control or role in Peua Thai, despite speaking about the party’s future in interviews conducted last year with Japanese media in Hong Kong.