Thaksin Shinawatra has played down suggestions that he would get special treatment from his government allies following reports he would be proposed for a pardon.
Thaksin lives abroad to escape a two-year jail term for corruption, but a cabinet meeting this week reportedly drafted a royal pardon that could allow him to come back without serving his sentence, prompting an angry response from the opposition.
In a letter to his fellow Thais, forwarded by email to AFP by his lawyer Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin spoke of the “rumour” that his name would be included in a list of those proposed for royal pardons next month.
“I trust in the principle that the government will not do anything that will benefit me or any individual specifically,” said the 62-year-old in the letter from Dubai, where he lives.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, said any action now taken should be “to bring national reconciliation to our country and to overcome the crisis” of Thailand’s current floods, which have killed more than 600 people.
Reports of the pardon came at a delicate time for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is Thaksin’s younger sister and widely considered his political proxy, as she faces criticism for her handling of the flooding disaster.
Royal pardons are granted each year on King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday on December 5.
This year’s decree, which would need to be approved by the king, would apply to “convicts who are at least 60 years old and are sentenced to under three years in jail”, the Bangkok Post English daily said on Wednesday.
Yingluck, who missed the cabinet meeting at which the draft was allegedly approved, did not deny the reports when asked at a news conference Wednesday. Without mentioning her brother, she said such a decree was “a common process”.
Thaksin remains a deeply divisive figure in Thailand and the reports have already sparked street action by both his opponents and allies.
His “Red Shirt” supporters said they were rallying this weekend in their northeastern strongholds in favour of the decree, while hundreds of nationalist “multi-coloured shirts” protested against the pardon in Bangkok on Friday.
Thailand’s influential and anti-Thaksin “Yellow Shirt” movement is also planning to demonstrate in the capital on Monday.