BANGKOK — Thailand's prime minister has a confession to make: He is also British.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva publicly acknowledged his dual nationality Thursday for the first time during a debate in Parliament.
Abhisit automatically holds British citizenship because he was born in Newcastle to parents from a well-to-do Bangkok family. He would have to specifically renounce it to lose it.
Abhisit's political foes have highlighted the matter. They claim that as a British citizen, he can be sued in the International Criminal Court over alleged abuses during his administration's crackdown on anti-government protests last year.
Opponents like to tweak Abhisit for his upper-class Oxford University education, and typically refer to him in speeches by his English name, Mark.
"I admit I have not given up British nationality because it is understood legally that ... if the nationality laws are conflicting, Thai law must be used," Abhisit said in response to an opposition lawmaker's question. "My intention is clear. I was born in England but I consider myself a Thai. I studied in England but I intended to return to work and live in Thailand, to work for the country's interest, and didn't think of anything else."
He also said he didn't hide that he supports the Newcastle football club.
The 46-year-old prime minister had been evasive about the citizenship question since it was raised about a month ago.
The matter became an issue through a complicated point of international law raised by a lawyer for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Abhisit's political enemy.
The lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, is seeking to bring Abhisit and colleagues to court for alleged human rights abuses committed when the Thai military forcibly put down anti-government protests in Bangkok last year. About 90 people were killed over the course of two months of demonstrations and unrest.
Amsterdam is seeking to bring to case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but Thailand is not a signatory to the treaty empowering the court, and therefore cannot be held to account. Amsterdam asserts, however, that Abhisit, as a British citizen, can be held liable by the court because Britain is a signatory to the treaty.
Thailand's head of state, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was also born overseas. He was born in 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, where his father, a prince, was studying medicine.