(CTN NEWS) – In a surprising twist in the long-running political drama of Thailand, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has decided to reduce the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s prison sentence from eight years to just one year.
This remarkable development marks the latest chapter in an extraordinary political saga that has spanned decades.
Thaksin, the prominent figure in a well-known political dynasty, recently made a dramatic return to Thailand after spending 15 years in self-imposed exile.
Last week, he formally submitted a request for a royal pardon, a confirmation provided by the outgoing justice minister of the country on Thursday.
On Friday, the Royal Gazette of Thailand published a statement, announcing the King’s decision to grant Thaksin’s plea. The statement mentioned that the King, with his graciousness, had reduced Thaksin Shinawatra’s prison sentence to one year.
The decision took into account Thaksin’s past service to the country, his loyalty to the monarchy, and his acknowledgment and regret for his previous actions.
Thaksin’s Royal Pardon: A Closer Look at the Statement and Recent Events
The statement emphasized Thaksin’s previous role as Thailand’s prime minister, highlighting his contributions to the nation and its people. It also noted his respect for the justice system, as he confessed to and expressed remorse for his actions.
Furthermore, it mentioned Thaksin’s willingness to serve the sentence despite his elderly age and health issues, which require specialized medical treatment.
The statement did not specify the exact date when Thaksin submitted his plea for a royal pardon.
However, the King’s decree was dated August 31 and bore the signature of outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who had previously led a coup against an elected government headed by Thaksin’s sister.
Thaksin, now 74 years old, served as prime minister from 2001 until his removal in a military coup in 2006. Following a brief return to Thailand in 2008, he fled the country due to a corruption conviction.
His recent return on August 22 via a private jet marked the first time he had set foot in Thailand since his departure. Upon arrival in Bangkok, he was greeted by his family and a supportive crowd.
Subsequently, Thaksin was taken into custody and sentenced by the Supreme Court to eight years in prison for charges related to conflict of interest, abuse of power, and corruption during his time in office.
Notably, these convictions had been handed down in absentia during his exile.
The outgoing Justice Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, confirmed to the press on Thursday that he had received Thaksin’s letter, wherein he requested a royal pardon from King Vajiralongkorn.
Wissanu, a seasoned figure in Thailand’s dynamic political landscape, having served in various governments under Thaksin and subsequent military regimes, assured that the royal pardon request would follow the established procedures and “will be processed in accordance with the rules.”
He emphasized that the outcome of this process ultimately depends on the benevolence of His Majesty.
Following his return to Thailand, Thaksin was initially placed in prison, but the very next day, he was transferred to a hospital due to reported chest tightness, high blood pressure, and low oxygen levels, as stated by the Thai Corrections Department.
It was deemed that his underlying heart condition required specialized medical attention that could not be adequately provided at a prison hospital.
Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister: Srettha Thavisin’s Appointment Amidst Political Coalition and Speculation
Shortly after his arrival in Thailand, the parliament selected Srettha Thavisin from the populist Pheu Thai party as the nation’s 30th prime minister.
To secure the necessary parliamentary votes, Pheu Thai had formed a coalition with two military-backed parties associated with the military junta that had ousted Pheu Thai’s democratically elected government, led by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, nearly a decade ago.
Pheu Thai is the latest political party from the influential Shinawatra political dynasty, founded by Thaksin, which has exerted significant influence over Thai politics for two decades.
There is speculation among some analysts that Thaksin may have negotiated a deal with Thailand’s influential conservative and royalist establishment for his return.
This speculation arises due to his prior court convictions and pending charges, with the possibility of a reduced prison sentence, leniency, or even a potential pardon in exchange for his return. Thaksin has reportedly denied any such arrangement.
Nevertheless, the swiftness of the king’s decision is raising eyebrows. Some experts suggest that the rapidity of this process might be part of a broader agreement.
Pheu Thai leads a coalition government with pro-military parties, effectively sidelining the Move Forward Party, which won the most votes and seats in Thailand’s May election on a platform that included radical changes to the monarchy—an exceptionally sensitive topic.
This party was prevented from forming a government.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, commented,
“With Move Forward being the new threat—calling for reforms of the military and monarchy—we would not have this pardon so speedily and the formation of the government as we see under Srettha and Pheu Thai. The fix is in, it’s a done deal, and Thailand moves forward from here but under uneasy circumstances.”
In Thailand, prisoners can request a royal pardon through the justice minister, who then forwards the application to the prime minister and ultimately the King for final approval.
The outgoing caretaker government, led by Prayut, a former coup leader from 2014, has only a few weeks left in power before the new government takes office, with Srettha as the new prime minister and a known ally of Thaksin.
Thaksin remains a divisive figure—a billionaire telecommunications magnate who rose to political power through policies popular with Thailand’s rural population, the majority of the country.
However, his policies were met with strong opposition from the country’s affluent elite and conservatives, who viewed him as a dangerous and corrupt populist.
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