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Sep 2 – Thailand’s king cut former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s prison sentence from eight years to one on Friday, following the contentious politician’s return from a 15-year self-imposed exile.
According to Thai media reports quoting Justice Ministry officials, Thaksin can ask for parole after serving one-third of his term, or four months. They stated that the former leader, who was transported to a hospital following a brief prison sentence due to reported poor health, might remain there for that period with authorization from the Thai Correction Department’s chief.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s decision was published in the Royal Gazette, making it effective immediately.
Thaksin was deposed as prime minister in a 2006 military coup and accused of corruption, misuse of authority, and contempt for the monarchy. He escaped Thailand in 2008 after being sentenced to prison on politically fabricated allegations.
Thaksin, 74, is widely believed to have returned in the hope of receiving a reduced sentence under a sympathetic new government, and that he may have struck a deal with authorities.
Srettha Thavisin of Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party secured enough votes in parliament to become prime minister just hours after Thaksin’s return to Thailand, putting an end to more than three months of uncertainty following the May general election. Pheu Thai was able to gain a majority by forming a coalition with pro-military parties associated to the 2014 coup that deposed Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thaksin was granted royal clemency after admitting his guilt, according to the proclamation. It stated that Thaksin had worked to benefit the country and was devoted to the monarchy, and that he could use his knowledge and ability to benefit the country and its people.
Thaksin was arrested upon his return to Thailand, but was promptly transported to a state hospital due to what the prison described as high blood pressure and low oxygen, difficulties sleeping, and chest tightness.
Thaksin was elected Prime Minister in 2001 by supporting populist ideas and leveraging his telecoms fortune to establish his own political party, and he was easily reelected in 2005.
Thailand’s traditional royalist governing elite saw his popularity as a threat. Years of sometimes-violent clashes between his supporters and opponents followed his departure. Political parties with his support continued to win elections, but were repeatedly deposed by the courts and the army, both of which were pillars of royalism.
Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Justice Minister, denied allegations that Thaksin was being treated preferentially. In a phone interview Friday, he said Thaksin would be treated like a regular inmate and would be returned to prison to fulfil his sentence once his health difficulties were resolved. Wissanu’s appointments will be eliminated as soon as Srettha’s government comes power.