Thaksin Shinawatra is currently being treated at Police General Hospital for a heart condition including elevated blood pressure, a lung issue and deterioration of the spine following an emergency within hours of being admitted to Bangkok Remand Prison, on August 22nd immediately after flying back to Thailand.
Within hours of it being confirmed that former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra had submitted a pardon to the King, a bulletin in the Royal Gazette issued on Friday 1st September, dated the 31st of August, commuted Mr Thaksin’s eight years sentence to one year. The warm statement noted Mr Thaksin’s loyalty to the monarchy and also commented on the former Prime Minister’s illness in old age and his ongoing treatment by medical professionals.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has commuted the 8-year sentence imposed by the Supreme Court on August 22nd on 74-year-old Thaksin Shinawatra, the ex-premier, to one year.
It follows a petition for a pardon reportedly submitted via the Corrections Department and the Ministry of Justice to the Privy Council for consideration by the monarch.
Former PM now being treated at the well-appointed Police General Hospital in Bangkok on the 14th Floor
The announcement that the eight-year sentence had been cut to one year came on Friday in the Royal Gazette and was dated Thursday the 31st of August 2023 having been countersigned by outgoing Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha on his last day in office.
Mr Thaksin is currently being treated at the well-appointed and resourced Police General Hospital in Bangkok in a 14th-floor suite reserved for officers with the rank of Police Captain after being transferred there by helicopter in the early hours of August 23rd after having developed hyper blood pressure on the night of August 22nd on his first day in prison while being held in the medical ward of Bangkok Remand Prison.
The ex-premier arrived back in Thailand by private jet from Singapore on the morning of August 22nd to be arrested on the tarmac after he emerged from the aircraft, and later following a brief court appearance before being committed to prison.
Thaksin spent 15 years in exile in Dubai
Thaksin had lived in exile in Dubai since 2008 having skipped bail while claiming a slew of criminal cases taken against him were politically motivated.
Three of these cases saw convictions ranged against Mr Thaksin when he was sentenced after his return to serve an eight-year term in prison before Friday’s announcement.
It is understood that the petition for a pardon was submitted to the Thai Monarch on Thursday.
Warm declaration accompanied the Royal Gazette announcement commuting Thaksin’s sentence
It gave some reason for commuting the prison sentence when it described Mr Thaksin as ‘a Prime Minister who has done good for the country and people and is loyal to the monarchy.’
The announcement also noted that Mr Thaksin had respected the legal process and admitted his guilt after accepting the verdicts of the court.
‘Right now he is old, has illness and is in need of care from medical professionals,’ the declaration read.
The decision by the King comes after stirrings of protest from conservative groups in the week since Mr Thaksin’s return and brings to a conclusion what appears to be a choreographed political solution to what appeared just weeks ago to be a deepening political crisis.
Thaksin’s old lawyer welcomed the announcement on Friday and warned against criticism of the move
The outcome has seen a government of reconciliation formed between the Pheu Thai Party which came second in the May 14th General Election and two parties associated with the former military junta and its leadership including the outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha who took his departure from Government House on Thursday August 31st after signing the sentence commutation.
One of those reacting to the decision by the King and the announcement on Friday was a former legal advisor to Mr Thaksin, Mr Winyat Chatmontri.
Speaking with the news agency Reuters he said: ‘It is his majesty’s grace that showed Thaksin mercy. Thais should accept and not criticise this outcome because it could be considered a violation of royal power.’
Move by outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha prior to the August 22nd vote seen as critical to resolving the political deadlock after the election
The resolution to Thailand’s political crisis, which seemed to develop in the aftermath of the May 14th General Election, appears to have involved the outgoing Prime Minister, Prayut Chan Ocha, and his considerable control over, reportedly, in excess of 150 senators in the upper house or Thai Senate, who voted for Mr Srettha Thavisin’s nomination as Prime Minister on August 22nd in a vote that was taken just hours after Mr Thaksin was lodged in Bangkok Remand Prison.
The resolution to the crisis during which the possibility of General Prawit Wongsuwan, the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Palang Pracharat Party, one of the junta parties joining the new coalition government, emerging as a possible Prime Minister, was speculated on by the media, ultimately saw General Prawit’s brother, former Police Chief, Police General Patcharawat Wongsuwan, designated as Deputy Prime Minister in his place as well as Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment in the incoming cabinet of Mr Srettha.
Royal announcement a positive signal
The Royal Gazette announcement on Friday will nip in the bud any potential outcry and significant protests relating to Mr Thaksin’s legal situation as doctors insist that he requires further treatment at Police General Hospital although he is expected to return to the medical centre in Bangkok Remand Prison, at some point.
The former prime minister has for decades been a popular icon for many in Thailand who regard his period in power from 2001 to 2005 as being a golden era for the kingdom while Mr Thaksin was equally loathed by more middle-class and urban voters in Bangkok.
The new incoming government, which is expected to be sworn in on Monday, September 11th, changes the political dynamic in Thailand with the more radical and reformist Move Forward Party moving into opposition, ironically with the oldest party in the kingdom, the Democrat Party, which has suffered decline for its tacit support of decisions taken by the military and Thailand’s courts which over the last two decades have impeded political parties associated with Mr Thaksin.
It is expected that when Mr Thaksin recovers from his health issues and is eventually released, he will remain retired from politics to spend time with his family and grandchildren.
Nevertheless, he will undoubtedly remain an influential figure in Thai politics, not least through the participation of his youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who is a key figure within the now-ruling Pheu Thai Party, for which Mr Thaksin is a revered figurehead.