Former Sri Lankan president arrives in Thailand

Former Sri Lankan president arrives in Thailand

The former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in Thailand and sought temporary shelter in a second South-East Asian country after fleeing his island nation last month amid mass protests.

Three witnesses said that Mr Rajapaksa arrived at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport on a chartered flight from Singapore on Thursday.

He left Sri Lanka for Singapore on July 14, resigning shortly after unprecedented unrest over his administration's handling of the country's worst economic crisis in seven decades.

He resigned on Thursday after thousands of protesters stormed the president's official residence and office.

Thai authorities said the former military officer, who is the first Sri Lankan head of state to quit mid-term, had no intention of seeking political asylum and would only stay temporarily.

This is a humanitarian issue and there is an agreement that it is a temporary stay, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday.

He said that while in Thailand, Rajapaksa could not participate in political activities.

Thailand's foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, said the Sri Lankan government supported Mr Rajapaksa's trip to Thailand, adding that the former president's diplomatic passport would allow him to stay for 90 days.

Since leaving Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa hasn't made any public appearances or comments.

Sri Lanka's economic crisis is a result of several factors including COVID 19, which battered its tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from workers overseas — rising oil prices, populist tax cuts and a seven-month ban on the import of chemical fertilisers last year that devastated agriculture.