Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will benefit from conditional release in the coming days, six months after his return from exile, Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong announced on Tuesday February 13.
The 74-year-old billionaire, detained in a hospital, “appears in the group of prisoners [libérés] in critical condition or aged over 70”the minister told journalists. “Around 930 prisoners, including him, will have their sentences suspended (…) He will be released automatically after six months” imprisonment, he added.
The details are not yet known, but he may have to wear an electronic bracelet, or limit his travel, according to an expert interviewed by Agence France-Presse. Thai media have assured that his release could take place as early as Saturday, or in the following days.
Thaksin Shinawatra is still “loved” by many people, reacted the current head of government, Srettha Thavisin, a former businessman whose pro-business profile fueled comparisons with her predecessor. “I’m sure he can give us some good advice.” I would like to repeat that everything was done in accordance with the law”he insisted.
Thaksin Shinawatra has been a central figure in Thai political life for more than twenty years. His policies, considered populist by his detractors, contributed to dividing the country between his supporters from the countryside, the “red shirts”, and his conservative royalist adversaries, the “yellow shirts”. The former police officer who made his fortune in telecoms, led the country from 2001 to 2006, before being ousted from power by an army coup, of which he was the bane – a year after a triumphant re-election.
Partial pardon from the king
After fifteen years abroad to escape several convictions for corruption and abuse of power, he returned to the kingdom on August 22. Hours after his arrival, the prisoner was transferred to a police hospital in Bangkok due to health problems, which required at least two surgeries in recent months. The former leader benefited from a partial pardon from the king at the beginning of September, which reduced his prison term from eight to one year.
The timing of this announcement has experts questioning a secret agreement between the Shinawatra clan and its former military and royalist adversaries, which would allow the latter to remain in power despite a slap in the 2023 legislative elections. Indeed, at the same time, the party controlled by the Shinawatra, Pheu Thai, agreed to integrate pro-army groups that it denigrated during the campaign, into a government coalition which made some of its supporters cringe.
This union made it possible to keep the reformists of Move Forward, winners of the election, in opposition thanks to a program of rupture vis-à-vis institutions deemed biased in favor of the establishment, which appealed even to the former strongholds of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Accused of lèse-majesté
From abroad, the billionaire continued to exert influence through his family and his political movement. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was prime minister from 2011 to 2014, before a new coup. His daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, today occupies the head of the Pheu Thai party, and her name often comes up to succeed the current head of government, if he ever loses the support of his diverse bloc.
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“I think it’s time for him to live the rest of his life happily.”she reacted.
Thaksin Shinawatra is also the subject of charges of lèse-majesté for comments made in 2015, but Thai justice has not yet decided what action to take in this case. The businessman denied the accusations and asked the attorney general for fair treatment.