Thailand’s jailed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to be freed.
Thaksin, 74, who was jailed for eight years for abuse of power before a royal pardon reduced the term to one year, was granted release on parole, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters on Tuesday.
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“It’s official,” Srettha said, stressing that everything had been carried out according to the law. “Once released he will be a normal citizen. What’s in the past is in the past.”
Thaksin returned to Thailand last August following more than 14 years in exile, and was taken immediately to court where he was jailed for eight years for abuse of power.
Thaksin was transferred to hospital after a single night in prison when his blood pressure soared.
Soon afterwards, the king gave him a royal pardon, reducing the sentence to one year.
Thai media reported earlier, quoting Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong, that Thaksin was among 930 inmates given parole on Tuesday – in his case for age and health reasons – and that he was expected to be released after February 17.
Thaksin swept to power in 2001 on a populist platform that appealed to rural Thais who had long been neglected by the country’s ruling elites. He was returned to office in a landslide five years later but the military soon seized power in a coup.
Thaksin – who was also accused of serious human rights abuses amid a violent conflict in the country’s mostly Muslim southern provinces and a “drugs war”, which killed thousands – was later convicted of abuse of power and went into exile, mostly in Dubai.
Srettha is from the Pheu Thai Party led by Thaksin’s youngest daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra. It formed a government after last May’s election, where the progressive Move Forward Party won the most votes but was blocked from taking power by still-powerful elements linked to the military and the traditional elite.
Srettha said on Tuesday that Thaksin was a man who had benefitted the country and could give “good advice” to his daughter “to serve the country”.