PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for joining us. I’ll make a statement as will the Foreign Minister, we don’t plan to take questions on this this evening, it’s just to advise you where things are at and we’ll be issuing a formal statement in the morning. But what we can advise is that as a result of a decision of the Thai Government not to pursue the extradition case that is reported, that Hakeem al-Araibi has left jail and is on his way to the airport. Now the next step is for him to return home. But as it always is in these cases, people aren’t home until they’re home.
But what we’d like to do tonight is to thank and show our appreciation to the Thai Government for the decision that they have taken today. We greatly respect the process that they’ve had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our Government and many others who have raised this case. These issues are complex and our relationship with the Thai Government and in particular with Prime Minister Prayut, is very strong. We thank them for the way that they have engaged with us on this matter now, for some period of time. I also want to thank – and the Foreign Minister will add further to this – all of those Australians who have been so supportive of Hakeem. Those who have provided direct support to him personally, particularly Craig Foster who has very much championed his case and cause and I have spoken to him and Marise has spoken to him on many occasions, we’ve worked closely together.
But there is still a journey ahead, there is still a process to be followed. But we are very grateful for the relationship we have with the Thai Government that has enabled us to work through these issues in the way that we have. I particularly want to commend the Foreign Minister for the work that she has done and that all of our consular officials have done. These issues are very delicate, they’re very sensitive and I think what we’ve seen here is the professionalism of our foreign service on show. So we thank them very much for all of their work and all of their advice.
As Prime Minister I’m pleased Hakeem is coming home and I’ll be pleased to see him at home when that occurs. But until that happens, we’ll continue to work this process as you would expect us to, not taking anything for granted and doing so in a way that is deeply appreciative and respectful to the Thai Government. Marise?
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SENATOR THE HON MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, it is correct to say that there are a number of steps to go in this process. But the important thing is to acknowledge this evening that Hakeem al-Araibi has been released from prison in Thailand and all things going according to plan, he’s in the process of moving to the Bangkok Airport for the purposes of ultimately boarding a flight back to Australia and returning to his family in the next day.
There is a great deal of work that has gone on, both behind the scenes and necessarily very publicly in this process. But I did want to, as the Prime Minister has, acknowledge the extremely hard work of the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the post in Bangkok who have personally and directly worked closely to support Hakeem during this extremely difficult time and provided a level of consular support and engagement with him to support him through this process.
I want to thank my counterpart in the Thai Government, Foreign Minister Don with whom I met personally in Bangkok last month and also Deputy Prime Minister Prajin, who have engaged with me on these issues and other members of the Thai Government and the Prime Minister has acknowledged Prime Minister Prayut in Thailand. The Australian community has also played a significant role, from the leadership of Craig Foster and his many followers, to the Pascoe Vale Football Club itself.
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Which has become, I think, well-known as a football association in Australia and to many other Australian sportspeople who have taken up the cause for Hakeem in this process.
PRIME MINISTER: And of course our Australians of the Year.
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: And indeed, our Australians of the Year who have both recently written to the Thai Government. Also I want to acknowledge the efforts here of the FFA, the Football Federation of Australia, their international director Mark Falvo who has helped my office and my team with this process. I look forward very much to seeing Hakeem al-Araibi back in Australia with his wife, with his friends, with his family and acknowledge the work that has been done between Australia and Thailand to achieve this outcome. It has been a complex process and has taken a great deal of communication and engagement, but we have an outcome. I think for Hakeem al-Araibi and the many who have supported him, that is the most important thing this evening.
As the Prime Minister has said, we’ll be issuing a formal statement in the morning but we did want to provide you with this information tonight.
PRIME MINISTER: So there’s nothing really further that we can add to that statement tonight. I want to thank you for coming together and we look forward to seeing you home, Hakeem. Thank you.