Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Will Face Royal Defamation Charge

Wilawan Watcharasakwet
171006-TH-thaksin-620.jpg Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra answers questions during an interview in New York, March 9, 2016.

Fugitive ex-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will face four charges, including royal defamation and computer-related crimes, Thailand's attorney general said Friday, a day after police announced a third warrant had been issued for his sister Yingluck’s arrest.

Thaksin, 68, a former telecommunications tycoon, lives in exile after he was deposed in a 2006 military coup while attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He briefly came back and subsequently fled the country in 2008 just before a court sentenced him to two years in prison on corruption charges.

“We will contact the Technology Crime Suppression Division to issue an arrest warrant on Thaksin for royal defamation and violation of Computer Crime Act,” Attorney General Kemchai Chutiwong told reporters.

“We will set up a committee to file the cases to the Supreme Court’s politician figure’s criminal section,” Kemchai told reporters, without providing details on how Thaksin had violated the Lese-Majeste, the nation’s strict royal defamation law.

Kemchai’s statements came a day after Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the deputy police commissioner, told reporters that a third arrest warrant had been issued against Yingluck Shinawatra for violating immigration laws by not using an official border checkpoint to travel out of the country.

Warrants against Yingluck

The Supreme Court issued the first warrant on Aug. 25, when Yingluck breached bail and skipped her sentencing in a corruption-plagued rice subsidy scheme. The second warrant came out on Sept. 27 when she was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for criminal negligence related to the botched rice program.

Throughout her trial, Yingluck, 50, has repeatedly claimed innocence, saying she was a victim of political persecution.

Yingluck was believed to have fled to Dubai after passing through the Cambodian border. She became the nation’s first female leader in 2011, but a military coup toppled her government three years later.

Srivara, the deputy police chief, told reporters on Tuesday that the United Arab Emirates had confirmed Yingluck went from Dubai to England. On Thursday, Thai officials shrugged off local reports, quoting unnamed sources, that England has approved Yingluck’s application for political asylum.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who serves as defense minister, told reporters he had no prior knowledge that Yingluck was seeking asylum.

The British Embassy’s political office in Washington did not return calls from BenarNews for comment.

Thaksin, who travels frequently, owns homes in Dubai and London. His suspended court cases involved a bank loan scandal and charges of malfeasance for allegedly pushing for legal amendments to allow his own businesses to pay less taxes and fees.

Thaksin would be the highest-profile Thai to face Lese-Majeste, the law that prohibits defaming, insulting or threatening the Thai royal family. Conviction carries a penalty of three to 15 years in prison.

Since the military seized power in May 2014, at least 82 people have been charged under Lese-Majeste, according to iLaw, a rights advocacy group. Those cases so far have resulted in 38 convictions and seven acquittals, the group said.


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