Thaksin Is Free but Could Face New Charge

Former Thai PM is being investigated for allegedly defaming the monarchy years ago
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 19, 2024 7:00 PM CST
Thaksin Is Free but Could Face New Charge
Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, right, sitting in a vehicle, leaves after being released from Police General Hospital on parole in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

Thai prosecutors said Monday that further investigation is needed to decide whether to bring former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to trial on charges of defaming the monarchy, just a day after he was freed from a prison sentence on other counts he was serving in a hospital. Thaksin was released on parole Sunday from the hospital in Bangkok where he served 6 months for corruption-related offenses, the AP reports. He had been in self-imposed exile since 2008, but he returned to Thailand in August last year to begin serving an eight-year sentence, which was reduced to one year by royal decree. The attorney general's office announced earlier this month it had revived an investigation into whether Thaksin almost nine years ago violated the law against defaming the monarchy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Thaksin was granted parole earlier this month because of his age—he is 74—and ill health, leaving him free for the remainder of his one-year sentence. Thaksin was briefly detained Sunday by police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division as he left Bangkok's Police General Hospital but was allowed temporary release to return home as it was not a working day for the prosecutor's office, Prayuth Bejraguna, a spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General, said at a news conference on Monday. Prayuth said the attorney general has taken into consideration Thaksin's statement in his own defense and decided to order a further investigation of his case. He was ordered to return to the office on April 10.

Thaksin became prime minister in 2001 after using his telecommunications fortune to build his own political party and promoting populist policies. He was easily reelected in 2005, but ousted by a 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy. Thaksin's return to Thailand last year came the same day that the Pheu Thai party—the latest incarnation of the party he originally led to power in 2001, and for which he is considered the de facto leader—won a parliamentary vote to form a new government. Thai studies scholar Kevin Hewison tells the AP that the charge against Thaksin may be left pending as a threat to keep him in line, in case his political activities are seen as unacceptable. (More Thaksin Shinawatra stories.)

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