Using Law on Free Access to Information, MANS requested from Ministry of Interior and Public Administration the decision and accompanied documents on base of which Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai Prime Minister, convicted for corruption, was granted Montenegrin citizenship.
Law on Free Access to Information is defining the obligation to all state institutions to enable access to documentation to all citizens. It also prescribes that all information are public while in case that institution declare some information as secret, such decision must be elaborated by institution. In order to ban access to certain information, institution must conduct so-called test of harmfulness and prove that publishing information would cause more harm to state, commercial and private interest, then it will do benefit to public interest to know.
Even in cases when requested information are indeed state or commercial secrets, or represent personal data, but at the same time are pointing out law violation, misuse of office or other criminal act, according to article 10 of the Law on free Access to Information, state institutions are οbliged to publish such information, regardless to level of harm to state, commercial or private interest.
Issuing Montenegrin passport to Thaksin Shinawatra is without doubt violation of the Law on Montenegrin Citizenship, so Ministry of Interior must publish requested information as it is pointing out law violation and misuses of power in the process of granting citizenship. Backing up thisclaim is the fact that this case could have huge impact on EU integrations process, especially on liberalization of the visa regime, so there is no doubt that interest of Montenegrin interest to be informed is larger, then interest of Shinawatra to preserve his privacy.
Article 8 of the Law on Montenegrin Citizenship is defining that passport cannot be issued to person that is finally convicted to prison penalty longer then one year. Former Thai Prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra was last year convicted to two years of prison for corruption, as it was determined that he provided opportunity for his wife to purchase land from state agency for price three times lower then the market one.
In cases where individuals are subject to criminal procedure, the Law is prescribing that process of granting citizenship is frozen until final decision on the case is made. Supreme Court of Thailand is currently processing three additional cases against Thaksin, his associates and family for misuse of office and other criminal offences, while Shinawatra is subject of investigations in ten more cases.
One of possibilities for person to obtain Montenegrin citizenship is to step into marriage agreement with Montenegrin citizens, but there is still precondition related to prison sentence, so Shinawatra could not use this possibility as well.
Only legal way for Shinawatra to obtain Montenegrin citizenship, regardless to whether he was convicted or not, is that he would be granted citizenship due to his special contribution to state, scientific, commercial, cultural, economic, sports or other interest of Montenegro, based on proposition of the state institutions. However, there is a question how did Shinawatra made that contribution to Montenegro, who did the evaluation of that and recommended giving citizenship to Shinawatra, and basically what is recommending finally convicted criminal as person of special importance to interests of Montenegrin state.
There is an obvious interest of public that documentation related to case of issuing a passport to Shinawatra is published, since this case could place Montenegro on the list of the countries that provide hideout to high profile criminals wanted by Interpol. Thailand Police requested assistance from the Interpol in arresting Shinawatra, so Montenegrin Police was obliged to help as well, rather then issue him a passport and enable his escape from justice.
This could significantly endanger visa liberalization regime process for Montenegro, as improvement of border control and cooperation with other countries in area of fight against corruption and organized crime are one of the preconditions for removing visa regime.
Having that in mind, we expect that Ministry of Interior will publish documents that will show who and through which procedure issued a passport to Shinawatra, as well as initiate internal investigation and sanction those that violated Law on Montenegrin Citizenship, but also significantly endanger state interests in process of EU integration.
Only in that manner state institutions could show to on concrete examples that there is political will to enforce reforms that will result with liberated visa regime for Montenegrin citizens.
Vanja Calovic, Executive Director
Zorica Ceranic, Coordinator of Civic Initiatives Program