Jailed former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra to be freed on Sunday

Despite being granted parole, Thaksin could face further legal troubles over charges for insulting the monarchy in 2015.

FILE PHOTO: Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, walks at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok, Thailand after he returned from exile August 22, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo/File Photo
Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned to the country from exile in August last year [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Thailand’s jailed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be freed on Sunday, just six months after returning to the country following more than 14 years in self-imposed exile.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said Thaksin’s release would be “on the 18th” and handled “according to the rule of law”.

Thaksin was granted parole earlier this week but it was not certain until now when he would be freed. Sunday is the first day of his parole eligibility.

Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong said earlier this week that Thaksin, 74, would be among 930 prisoners granted early release.

Thaksin could still face further legal troubles as public prosecutors are considering charging him for insulting the monarchy during a 2015 media interview.

The billionaire who made his fortune in the telecommunications business was jailed for eight years on graft and abuse-of-power charges upon his return to Thailand in August. His sentence was reduced to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn and he has served six months in hospital detention due to an undisclosed health condition.

His homecoming coincided with his Pheu Thai Party returning to government in alliance with pro-military parties, leading many to conclude that an agreement had been struck to cut his jail time.

The rumours grew stronger when he was transferred to a police hospital within hours of being sentenced because of his poor health, and it is not clear that he has spent any time in a prison cell.

Local media reported that Thaksin had been suffering from tightness in the chest and high blood pressure when he was admitted to hospital, and his family said he had undergone two operations in the following months.

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.

The former prime minister swept to power in 2001 on a populist platform that appealed to rural Thais who had long been neglected by the country’s ruling elite. He was returned to office in a landslide five years later, but in September 2006, when Thaksin was in New York preparing to address the United Nations, the military seized power in a coup.

Before being convicted for abuse of power and going into exile, mostly in Dubai, Thaksin was accused of serious human rights abuses amid a violent conflict in the country’s largely Muslim southern provinces and a “drugs war”, which killed thousands.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies