Thai corrections agency grants Thaksin Shinawatra parole

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai corrections agency grants Thaksin Shinawatra parole Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, joined by his daughter, Paetongtarn, greets supporters following his arrival at the Don Meuang International Airport in Bangkok, Aug. 22, 2023.
Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

Convicted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is to be released from prison on parole, the current prime minister and other officials announced on Tuesday. 

Thaksin, 74, the patriarch of the Pheu Thai party that returned to power at the head of a new coalition government in September, has spent the past six months at a Bangkok hospital and less than a day in his prison after he was sentenced to eight years on a corruption conviction. About 10 days after Thaksin was sent to prison in August on the day he returned home from self-exile, the king slashed his sentence to one year.  

Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong told reporters that the parole committee at the Department of Corrections had approved the list of 930 prisoners, and Thaksin’s name was on it. The list was submitted by Ayuth Sintoppant, the department’s director-general, Tawee said. Thaksin was sentenced and sent to prison on the day in August when he came home from years of exile. 

“In Thaksin’s case, he will be released after six months automatically,” Tawee told reporters while not specifying when that would occur. “In the complete list, Thaksin’s name is included because he falls into the category of being seriously ill, disabled or over the age of 70.”

It was not immediately clear when Thaksin might be released from custody. The Reuters news service, citing correction department rules, said this could happen after Feb. 18. Reuters quoted Thaksin’s attorney as saying that he had not been given a release date for his client.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Tuesday defended the decision to grant parole to Thaksin, who led the Thai government from 2001 to 2006 when he was forced from office by a military coup. He fled the country, was convicted in absentia and returned to Thailand last Aug. 22.

“Thaksin served as prime minister for many years and has benefited the country for a long time. What happened in the past is in the past,” Srettha said on Tuesday.

Critics had already accused Srettha’s government of giving Thaksin, a polarizing figure in Thai politics, special treatment compared with most inmates by allowing him to stay at a VIP ward at the Police Hospital. He has been receiving treatment there for unspecified health problems since he was admitted there after complaining about suffering from insomnia, chest pain, high blood pressure and low oxygen during his first night in his prison cell. 

Last month, corrections officials announced they were allowing the former PM to stay in hospital for longer “due to health conditions that need close medical attention.”

The pardon process is governed by Section 52 of the Department of Corrections law, which stipulates that to be considered for parole, prisoners must have served at least six months of their sentences or one-third of their term, whichever is longer. The remaining two-thirds of the sentence must not exceed 10 years.

“He went through the legal process and we followed the law. Thaksin returned and served his sentence, meeting all the criteria,” Srettha told reporters on Tuesday.

After returning to Thailand aboard an executive jet on Aug. 22, Thaksin was sentenced to eight years for his convictions on three charges that occurred during his term as prime minister, including abuse of power. A day after Thaksin applied for a royal pardon from his hospital bed, the king on Sept. 1 issued a decree cutting seven years from the sentence.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Thaksin’s daughter and leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, expressed relief at the announcement. 

“This is good news,” she said. “We previously discussed having a doctor check his health once released. He’s preparing to remain at home.” 

She called the process legitimate.

“Parole criteria are reviewed by multiple agencies, not just one. Thaksin isn’t the only one eligible, he went through the same process as everyone else,” she said.

Pichit Chaimongkol, a leader of Students and the People’s Network for Thailand Reform said Thaksin was not being punished properly and questioned the parole process.

“Thaksin is a convicted criminal who should be serving his full sentence in prison,” Pichit told BenarNews. “His release on parole is a clear sign that the Thai justice system is broken.”

Ruj Chuenban in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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