The return of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on or before July 26th next, his 74th birthday, would be a sensational and historic moment for Thailand. It is bound to be one that the interim Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan ocha must handle with care and tact. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam clarified in recent days that Mr Thaksin faces at least 8 years in prison as some of the cases against him are already finalised and cannot be appealed nor can bail be sought.

Thailand’s Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha may still have to face a key moment as Prime Minister even if he loses next Sunday’s General Election following an announcement earlier in the week that former premier and fugitive from justice Thaksin Shinawatra may be intent on returning to the kingdom to face justice on or before July 26th or before a new government is formed.

General Prayut Chan ocha (right) was offhand and dismissive this week after hearing about Thaksin’s plans to return home to Thailand by July 26th next. The ousted ex-Prime Minister vowed to return home and put himself in the hands of the justice system and General Prayut’s government. The situation, if it comes to pass, would represent a test for the sitting Prime Minister even if he loses next Sunday’s General Election.

On Friday, Thailand’s army chief General Narongpan Jittkaewtae told reporters that the word coup should be removed from their dictionaries while Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan ocha suggested he would leave politics behind him if his United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party failed to win enough seats to form Thailand’s next government after Sunday’s General Election.

At the same time, Thai officials made the final preparations for the poll in which it is expected that the Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties will emerge victorious.

With many different permutations still possible given the voting influence of the unelected Thai Senate with 250 votes, it will not be clear until Sunday night or even afterwards what sort of government will take shape over the coming months.

Return of Thaksin who is facing over 10 years in jail on or before July 26th next would be a test for the government given his divisiveness as a figure

However, even if Sunday night’s outcome forces General Prayut into retirement, he may nevertheless still have to confront one last crisis or critical moment for the kingdom, the growing possibility of a return of ex-Prime Minister and fugitive from justice, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand’s ex-premier, on Tuesday, in a dramatic tweet from exile in Dubai, said he would return to the kingdom before July 26th next which is his 74th birthday.

Such an eventuality has the potential to ignite divisions in Thailand at a critical moment in the country’s still very fragile democracy under the 2017 Constitution.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra delivers a baby boy named Thaisin as Pheu Thai spirits are buoyed by the new arrival

In the tweet, with emotional undertones, Mr Thaksin, who is the father of leading Pheu Thai Party prime ministerial nominee Paetongtarn Shinawatra, made it clear that he explicitly intended his return to come during the period before any new government is formed and under the rule of the interim government led by General Prayut Chan ocha.

Thaksin who was ousted in a 2006 coup d’état, spoke as a grandfather, wanted to spend time with his grandchildren but will be faced with a prison cell

The message from Dubai came just over a week after Thaksin welcomed his seventh grandchild, a son born to Ms Paetongtarn or Ung Ing who has been named Thasin or Prujthasin Suksawat.

He is the second child of the 36-year-old and her husband Pitaka Suksawat.

Ms Paetongtarn is one of Pheu Thai’s nominees for the role of prime minister in this election.

In his tweet, published on Tuesday at 10.26 am, Mr Thaksin makes his intentions quite clear although he did not explicitly suggest that he was ready to begin serving the 10-year sentence of imprisonment that currently hangs over him in Thailand following convictions which have now been finalised by the courts in relation to corruption, charges which the ex-prime minister who won two General Elections in Thailand before being ousted by a 2006 coup d’état staged by the military, has always claimed were politically motivated.

‘Don’t worry that I will be a burden for the Pheu Thai Party. I will enter the legal process. On the day I return, the caretaker government of General Prayut Chan ocha would still be where it is. It’s all my own decision – with love and attachment to my family, my homeland and our high-up,’ he stated.

General Prayut was quite offhand and dismissive on Tuesday as reporters questioned him on his reaction to Mr Thaksin’s social media message on Twitter

Reaction to Thaksin’s message from Dubai came after a poorly attended cabinet meeting on Tuesday at the Santi Maitri Building or Government House in Bangkok where the cabinet heard a gloomy report on the external outlook for exports and was told that there was still no response from the Election Commission concerning a ฿10.46 billion subsidy to cushion the impact of sky high electricity costs in Thailand caused by record high temperatures and price hikes.

Lights out for the PM’s chances as people get shocked by sky-high electricity bills in the post

After the meeting, General Prayut made it clear that the matter was both in the hands of Mr Thaksin himself and the judicial process.

‘It’s up to him and the judicial procedures,’ General Prayut replied when asked to comment.

Asked whether Thaksin’s tweet was sending a signal to General Prayut, seeking a deal, he said. ‘Did he send a signal via air? I didn’t receive any signal.’

Then asked if he could decipher some reason or motive for this announcement which is coming just days before the General Election, the PM was equally offhand. ‘You asked this question, so you answer it.’

Government’s legal eagle was quite explicit. Thaksin must be lodged in a state-run prison and has to serve over 8 years behind bars before a pardon

Deputy Prime Minister and cabinet legal specialist Wissanu Krea-ngam then gave the press some of his insight into the situation.

He made it clear that by entering the ‘judicial process’ Mr Thaksin would have to be incarcerated in a government-run prison pursuant to his convictions before the courts.

He said that as the cases were finalised there was no question of bail.

He also dismissed speculation linked with former Minister of Justice Somsak Thepsutin that Mr Thaksin could be imprisoned at home.

Mr Wissanu said that, as yet, Mr Somsak’s proposals in this regard while serving as a minister were only policies and that there was no legal alternative for a prisoner serving a prison sentence but to be placed in a state-run prison.

‘Inmates must be sent to state detention facilities and they cannot be placed under house arrest,’ he explained.

Some legal cases facing the former PM are still not decided while others were finalised with no possibility of bail or appeal said Deputy PM Wissanu 

He said that there were three types of cases linked with the former premier.

Cases where he had been convicted and sentenced, cases which were still before the courts and cases where he had been acquitted.

All would have to pursue their proper legal course.

The deputy prime minister also addressed the prospect of Mr Thaksin receiving a royal pardon by first of all pointing out that this was something to be decided elsewhere.

However, in respect of any possibility of pardon, a prisoner would have to have served a minimum of eight years or a third of his sentence to be eligible for one.

Return of Thaksin to Thailand would be a sensational moment in the country’s history if it comes between now and July 26th as he indicated this week

The return of Thaksin Shinawatra, if it does come in July, would be a sensational moment for Thailand and would also come in the aftermath of the May 14th election which looks like it will throw up the likelihood of a coalition government formed by both the Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties.

Dark predictions as the opposition parties look set to sweep to power in next weekend’s General Election
Pheu Thai is facing a threat of dissolution with a complaint being pursued by the Election Commission

However, nothing in Thai politics is ever certain with concern about the transparency of this Sunday’s election, growing scrutiny of the Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties and dark warnings from the Prime Minister’s United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party of the danger of further political turmoil in Thailand.

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Further reading:

Dark predictions as the opposition parties look set to sweep to power in next weekend’s General Election

Move Forward Party surging in the polls as the General Election campaign enters its final week

PM warns giveaway policies of some parties may be ‘bad karma’ for the country in the longer run

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Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan warns that those in power who support coups still exist

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Pheu Thai knocks Palang Pracharat Party coalition talk on the head with more bad news for Prawit

Corruption and the role of the unelected Senate in electing the next PM to be General Election issues

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