From hospital bed, former Thai PM Thaksin requests royal pardon

BenarNews staff
Washington and Bangkok
From hospital bed, former Thai PM Thaksin requests royal pardon Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra kneels before a portrait of the king and queen after disembarking at the Mjets private terminal at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Aug. 22, 2023.
Thai News Pix/BenarNews

From his suite at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has requested a royal pardon, a senior minister of the outgoing government confirmed Thursday, in a move long expected by observers of Thai politics.

The billionaire telecoms tycoon who returned to Thailand nine days ago after 15 years of self-exile abroad is seeking to avoid serving eight years in prison for corruption and abuse of power, in a case he claims was politically motivated. However, the 74-year-old has been hospitalized since his first night in prison. 

“I have received Thaksin’s application for a royal pardon,” caretaker Justice Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told journalists. 

Wissanu said he did not know when King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X) would reach a decision on Thaksin’s request.

“The procedure from the government is not long, but it depends on the length of (the king’s) consideration,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Thaksin, the patriarch of the Pheu Thai Party, arrived in Bangkok from Singapore aboard a private jet on Aug. 22, and was soon after taken into custody. 

Hours later, MPs elected Pheu Thai member Srettha Thavisin as the new prime minister.

He left Thailand in 2008, two years after the military seized power from his government. In May 2014, the military also toppled a government headed by his sister, Yingluck.

Thaksin’s party now heads a ruling coalition founded on a power-sharing deal struck with parties aligned with the very military that overthrew him and Yingluck. 

Pheu Thai was the runner-up in the May 14 general election, placing second to the progressive Move Forward Party. But to return to power, Pheu Thai jettisoned Move Forward from a prospective ruling bloc in striking its bargain with the pro-military parties.  

Thaksin was jailed for approving a low-interest loan from the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to Myanmar’s government to buy telecommunications equipment from a company he controlled. His sentence also is tied to his involvement in a state lottery scheme and efforts to conceal shares in his family business, SHIN Corp., from 2001 to 2006 when the company benefited from government concessions.

The former prime minister, who suffers from high blood pressure, according to reports, was transferred from his cell to the prison hospital during his first night in custody and later transferred to the Police General Hospital.

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra greets supporters after his arrival at the Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Aug. 22, 2023. [Wason Wanichakorn/AP]

Not all Thais support Thaksin’s pardon bid.

A former national human rights commissioner delivered a Facebook message to Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn, an MP who was a potential Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate.

Paetongtarn has said her father’s return had nothing to do with Parliament’s vote to elect Srettha that same day.

“As a daughter, Paetongtarn should think about the children of many others who don’t have a chance to welcome their father back home,” Angkhana Neelapaijit posted. 

“And as a leader of the core of the coalition party, Paetongtarn should have empathy and realize her responsibility to the families or those who fought for Thaksin resulting in exile and never had a chance to come home. Those who did not have such a comfortable life like Thaksin – some were killed in neighboring countries or went missing.”

Paetongtarn has said her father’s return had nothing to do with Parliament’s vote to elect Srettha that same day.

Angkhana, a 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, began her human rights career after her husband, human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, was the victim of an enforced disappearance in 2004. He is believed to have been killed, but his body has not been recovered.

In 2006, when Thaksin was prime minister, he said he knew that Somchai was killed and that “government officials were involved,” according to a media report at the time. Since then, no one has been held accountable in court.


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