Srettha Thavisin, a real estate billionaire, has received the support of parliament and senate on Tuesday to become the Thailand’s 30th prime minister, clearing the path for a new coalition government and putting an end to weeks of uncertainty and political gridlock.
Srettha, who was thrust into the spotlight only a few months ago by the populist Pheu Thai Party, received support from more than half of the legislature on a day when the party’s billionaire figurehead Thaksin Shinawatra made a historic homecoming after years of self-imposed exile.
Former president of property developer Sansiri (SIRI.BK) Srettha will be faced with creating and holding together a possibly unstable coalition that will include groups backed by the royalist military, which deposed Pheu Thai governments in 2006 and 2014.
Former telecoms billionaire and Premier League football club owner Thaksin Shinawatra was among those deposed, and he fled into exile before being imprisoned in absentia in 2008 for abuse of authority and conflicts of interest. In 2014, a coup deposed his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thaksin, 74, was greeted enthusiastically by supporters at Bangkok’s airport before being brought by police to the Supreme Court and subsequently to a jail to serve an eight-year term.
The homecoming of Thailand’s most recognised politician, as well as Srettha’s easy ascension to the top job, would fuel speculation that Thaksin struck a deal with his adversaries in the military and establishment to facilitate his safe return and possibly early release from prison.
Thaksin and Pheu Thai both deny this.
The events of Tuesday were the latest twist in a nearly two-decade power battle between Pheu Thai, which has won five elections, and a nexus of conservatives, generals, and old money families with long-standing clout in politics and the economy.
Pheu Thai announced Srettha as a prime ministerial candidate with Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Thaksin’s youngest daughter, in the run-up to the May 14 election, in which the party finished second.
An attempt to create a coalition with the election winner, the progressive Move Forward, failed due to vehement opposition from conservative members of the lower house and Senators under military influence.
Thailand’s Former Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra Jailed
Meanwhile, Thaksin Shinawatra is being watched around the clock in a separate room on the medical wing of Bangkok Remand Prison due to four underlying health concerns, including heart and lung problems, according to the head of the Department of Corrections.
Mr.Aryut Sinthoppan addressed press on the department’s plans for the 74-year-old convict after the former prime minister was transported to the prison after the Supreme Court sentenced him to eight years in prison earlier in the day. He stated that the prison would provide Thaksin with adequate security as well as sufficient living arrangements, food, drinking water, and visitation.
Because Thaksin is likely to be visited by family members, close associates, and representatives from many organisations, he will be given a suitable meeting place.
Furthermore, because Thaksin is elderly, his health will be continuously watched to provide proper medical treatment.
Doctors from the Department of Corrections Hospital evaluated Thaksin and discovered four underlying ailments, according to Mr. Sithi Sutheewong, the department’s deputy director-general.
Thaksin was first placed in a separate room on Zone 7, the medical centre of the Bangkok Remand Prison, where he will be observed around the clock, in accordance with practise for older convicts with ailments.
It has been widely reported that the former prime minister wishes to spend as little time in prison as possible. Mr. Sitthi stated that he is eligible to petition for a royal pardon from his first day in jail. Thaksin or his relatives may have prepared the petition.
When a petition is presented, it is reviewed by a Department of Corrections committee. The committee will then forward it to the Justice Ministry and the Prime Minister for review before presenting it to His Majesty the King.
According to Mr Sitthi, there are two categories of royal pardons: universal and specific. Thaksin is in the second group. Depending on the documents attached and the royal discretion, the entire process could take one to two months.
The government’s legal expert, Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, previously stated that if a pardon is not granted, the applicant must wait two years before seeking one again.
According to Wattanachai Mingbancherdsuk, director of the Department of Corrections Hospital, Thaksin has four underlying conditions: heart illness, a lung ailment, high blood pressure, and spondylosis, or deterioration of the bones and discs in the spine.
In light of these circumstances, Thaksin is regarded a vulnerable person who requires strict monitoring, according to him.
According to Nastee Thongplad, chief of the Bangkok Remand Prison, all convicts, including Thaksin, must maintain their hair short and wear a white shirt.
He noted that Thaksin’s room includes electric fans but no air conditioning, as well as an adjoining room for doctors.