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Eligibility for Royal Pardons in Thailand Changed After Public Outcry

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Eligibility for Royal Pardons in Thailand has been revised by the Justice Ministry for who can be eligible after a public outcry over cronyism.

The Justice Minister, Somsak Thepsuthin said now those currently in prison have to serve a minimum of eight years or one-third of their sentence, whichever comes first before they can be considered for selection.

The changes come after outrage over the Department of Corrections’ recent inclusion of convicts in high-profile corruption convictions on the list of inmates who had had their terms reduced by royal pardon early.

According to Somsak Thepsuthin, the ministry has acted on recommendations made by an independent committee appointed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to review the matter.

Royal Pardons Scandal

A public outcry occurred last year when the Department of Corrections revealed that five prominent figures in corruption cases, including former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and his deputy Poom Sarapol, had received substantial sentence reductions.

Mr. Boonsong Teriyapirom was sentenced to 48 years in jail by the Supreme Court over fraudulent intergovernmental rice deals. He had his term reduced to 10 years and eight months through a Royal Pardon. His release is set for April 2028.

In connection with the same rice deals, Mr. Poom Sarapol was sentenced to 36 years in prison by the Supreme Court. After a Royal Pardon, his prison term was reduced to 5 years, and he is due to be released in August 2025.

Gen Prayut appointed an independent committee, headed by Khemchai Chutiwong, a former attorney-general, and chair of the committee on national reform in justice affairs, to look into the DoC’s criteria for selecting who would receive reduced prison terms.

After receiving the committee report, Gen Prayut instructed the Justice Ministry to act on its recommendations, review the procedure to categorize prisoners and allow prosecutors and judges to take part in the assessment of inmates’ behavior.

Wanlop Nakbua, deputy permanent secretary for justice, said the ministry has followed up on the independent committee’s recommendations and reported its progress to the prime minister.

He said the ministry has improved procedures for categorizing prisoners and has agreed to take into consideration inmates’ criminal behavior when classifying the prisoners.

He also said that inmates convicted in serious corruption cases will receive fewer benefits as part of improved criteria for granting pardons.

The government’s spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the prime minister has asked the public to have confidence in the justice administration system.

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