BANGKOK— Emerging from weeks of silence, fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared in Africa Thursday, where he says he is dealing in diamonds and visiting Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela.
A photo of his meeting with the former South African president was released in Thailand by Thaksin's lawyer in an apparent move to quash rumors that the divisive ex-prime minister is ill — and to advertise that he's rubbing shoulders with VIPs abroad.
"I travel all the time. Currently, I'm in Africa for diamond mining," Thaksin told the Thai Rath newspaper in an interview published Thursday. He did not specify if he was still in South Africa. He said rumors of his failing health were "lies."
The Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg confirmed that the visit took place last Friday.
"It was not a meeting, it was a courtesy call," spokesman Sello Hatang said. He said he did not know what they discussed.