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Fugitive Thai PM Shows Up at Singapore Noodle Stall Bearing His Name

What, you think Thaksin Shinawatra's not going to eat at a hawker stall called "Thaksin Beef Noodle"?

by Nisa Kreems
21 December 2018, 11:00am

Photo via Jaesen Ng/ Facebook 

Jaesen Ng knew exactly what to ask the elderly man standing in front of his humble noodle stall in Singapore's HarbourFront neighborhood: "What took you so long?"

The man was Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand who was ousted in a military coup back in 2006 and issued a warrant on corruption charges. He's since lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai and has made regular appearances in Singapore, Hong Kong, the US, and Japan, alongside his sister Yingluck Shinawatra. She too is living in exile, possibly in London, after being thrown from office in a different military coup.

The siblings still enjoy an outsized level of popularity in their native Thailand, as well as across Southeast Asia, for their track record of implementing poverty alleviation programs and universal healthcare while in power. They're so popular that Ng decided to name his noodle stall after Thaksin himself, calling it "Thaksin Beef Noodle" when it opened back in 2003.

Ng had heard that the Shinawatras had recently appeared in Singapore, but he hadn't seen either of them at his noodle stall... until last Tuesday when both siblings, as well as Thaksin's daughter Ing, showed up at his stall and bought some noodles.

"I was elated," Ng told Channel News Asia. "After all, I named my stall after him.

"I knew deep inside that I would meet him, since I've already been famous for quite a long time."

It's a super Singaporean story, partly because, yes, the hawker center food is really that good, and partly because the city-state has never been shy about maintaining relationship with the kinds of people who might be shunned elsewhere. That's the real reason why US President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-Un took place in Singapore. North Korean citizens were allowed to enter Singapore visa-free until 2016 and the two countries maintained trade ties until one year later. That made Singapore, as well as Indonesia and Malaysia, good locations for a meeting of the two nations.

Singapore also lacks an extradition treaty with a large percentage of the world, including Thailand. This last part, the lack of an agreement with Thailand, specifically irked some people in parliament enough to bring it up in an official session back in 2016.

Indranee Rajah, then a senior minister of state for law, told parliament that:

"For Singapore to have an extradition treaty with another country, for example, Thailand, there must first be a common desire from both countries to have an arrangement for the reciprocal handing over of fugitives in the interest of law and order.

"Both countries must find it mutually beneficial to enter into such an arrangement. The next step is then to examine each other’s legal systems and procedures to determine compatibility. Sometimes these arrangements are easier to conclude when countries come from the same legal traditions and have very similar legal systems and procedures.

"Where there is greater divergence in the respective legal systems and procedures, the differences will need to be rationalized or a consensus be reached as to the legal procedures to be applied before an arrangement can be concluded."

So, basically, unless you're wanted for a crime in the US, Germany, Hong Kong, or a fellow member of the commonwealth, you can feel free to eat as much as you want without fear of extradition—"just deserts" not included.