Thai King Cuts Thaksin's Prison Term Short

Former PM's sentence has been reduced from 8 years to 1 year by royal decree
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 22, 2023 2:43 PM CDT
Updated Sep 1, 2023 7:31 AM CDT
Thaksin Returns to Thailand, Goes to Jail
Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra prays in front of a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn as he arrives at Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.   (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)
UPDATE Sep 1, 2023 7:31 AM CDT

Thailand's king on Friday reduced the prison term of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from eight years to a single year following the divisive politician's return from 15 years of self-imposed exile. The decree from King Maha Vajiralongkorn granting Thaksin, 74, royal clemency said the action was taken so he could use his knowledge and abilities to help the nation and its people, the AP reports. Thaksin was ousted as prime minister in a military coup in 2006. He fled Thailand in 2008 when he faced prison time on corruption charges he described as politically motivated. He returned to Thailand last week and was immediately sent to prison, but was quickly transferred to a state hospital because of what was described as his frail health.

Aug 22, 2023 2:43 PM CDT

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra began an eight-year prison sentence Tuesday after returning from years of self-imposed exile, while his allies in parliament faced a vote on their bid to form a government together with military parties that have been their rivals for decades. It was an emotional day for supporters of the 74-year-old billionaire, who won the loyalty of millions with populist policies that directed attention, and funding, to the country's largely rural, often impoverished, north, the AP reports. Hundreds of people gathered outside of the airport in Bangkok hours ahead of Thaksin's arrival, donning red clothes and holding signs with welcoming messages. They sang and chanted in anticipation, then raised a raucous cheer when he appeared at the terminal door.

Thaksin's convoy went from the airport to the Supreme Court, where a special body that handles criminal cases against former officeholders confirmed an eight-year sentence given to him in absentia for corruption, which he has he dismissed as politically motivated. He then went directly to Bangkok's main prison. Meanwhile, voting began in Parliament on the Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai Party's bid to form an 11-party government that would include two parties allied with its former military adversaries, following a stalemate that has lasted more than three months. Pheu Thai has been heavily criticized by some supporters for backtracking on a pre-election pledge not to work with pro-military parties, and many have speculated that the party embraced its former enemies in an effort to reduce or cancel Thaksin's prison sentence.

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Thaksin and parties backed by him struggled with the military for years. Thaksin left Thailand 15 years ago, following a 2006 coup that cut short his second term as prime minister and sparked years of upheaval. Thaksin has said his decision to return has nothing to do with the Pheu Thai party's bid for power, but many observers suspect that the divisive former leader is betting that a friendly government will be able to cut his sentence short. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam of the outgoing military-linked government has said that Thaksin can request a royal pardon like any other inmate, and could receive special consideration because of his age.

(More Thailand stories.)

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