Thailand’s ex-PM Thaksin leaves hospital after six months in detention

Thaksin returned to Thailand in August after nearly 16 years of self-imposed exile.

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been released from hospital after six months of detention [Sakchai Lalit/AP]

Thailand’s jailed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has left the hospital where he spent six months in detention following his return to the kingdom after more than 15 years of self-imposed exile.

Thaksin, wearing a neck brace and a surgical mask, was seen early on Sunday in a vehicle leaving the Police General Hospital in central Bangkok.

Thaksin was taken to his home in western Bangkok, where a banner with the words “Welcome home” and “We’ve been waiting for this day for so so long” was hanging at the front gate.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said earlier this week that Thaksin, who was jailed for eight years on corruption charges before his sentence was reduced to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, would be released on parole.

The exact details of Thaksin’s parole are unclear but the return of his Pheu Thai party to power in a coalition with the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party and United Thai Nation has fuelled rumours that a backroom deal was struck to reduce his time in jail, which the government has denied.

Thaksin, a towering but divisive presence in Thai politics for more than two decades, led Thailand between 2001 and 2006 when his government was toppled in a military coup.

After convictions for abuse of power and other offences while in office, Thaksin spent nearly 16 years in self-imposed exile overseas before returning home in August to cheering crowds to serve his sentence.

Within hours of his return, Thaksin was moved from prison to the police hospital to receive treatment for unspecified health issues.

Even after he fled the country in 2008, Thaksin’s allies continued to be a major force in Thai politics, with his sister Yingluck Shinawatra serving as the country’s first female prime minister from 2011 until 2014.

Thaksin’s parole caps a period of reconciliation between his populist movement and the country’s conservative, royalist establishment, which have been locked in a heated rivalry that has consumed Thai politics for decades.

Thaksin’s populist platform appealed to rural Thais who had long felt neglected by the country’s ruling elites.

The former telecoms tycoon 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.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies