Thaksin Shinawatra ignites parole controversy as ex-PM returns home after 17 Years. Cheers and questions surround the former Thai leader’s homecoming. What’s next for Thailand’s political landscape which the 74-year-old has dominated for decades?

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was released on parole on Sunday morning. The controversial figure who has dominated Thai politics for decades, was collected at Police General Hospital after 6 am by his daughter and current Pheu Thai Party leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra and her older sister Pinthongtha. His release on parole having not served a full day at a prison facility after being sentenced on August 22nd 2023 to eight years imprisonment, has stirred controversy. At the same time, there are others in the public and the political firmament who simply wish the dynamic former government leader well in retirement. Thaksin is 74 years of age and reportedly suffering from chronic illness.

Poignant picture released on Sunday by Pheu Thai Party leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra of her father, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, sitting by the pool moments after returning home to his Bangkok residence, Chan Song La in the Bang Phlat area of Bangkok, after an absence of 17 years. The former government leader was granted parole on Sunday. In brief, he was collected by his two daughters from the Police General Hospital in Bangkok shortly after 6 am.

On February 18, 2024, Thaksin Shinawatra returned to his home, Chan Song La in the Bang Phlat Sub District of Bangkok. The former Prime Minister, ousted in the September 2006 coup d’état, had not been home there in 17 years.

Thaksin returned to Thailand on August 22nd 2023 in what was a historic day for the kingdom.

It came on the same day that a Pheu Thai-led coalition elected current Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to office. 

That day, Mr Thaksin was lodged at Bangkok Remand Prison to ostensibly serve an eight-year prison sentence.

Thaksin airlifted to Police General Hospital in Bangkok on the night of August 22nd having only spent hours in a prison medical facility in the capital after sentencing

On the night of August 22nd however, Thaksin was removed on the basis of a medical emergency. 

A helicopter flew him to Police General Hospital. Despite having only spent hours in a prison medical facility, doctors revealed Thaksin was suffering from hypertension and other conditions.

They posed a threat to his life given his advanced years.

Afterwards, he served out his prison term confined to a suite on the 14th floor of the luxury city centre hospital.

Thaksin was the subject of a Royal pardon in September 2023 in a warmly worded pronouncement. 

His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn emphasised Thaksin’s successful term as Prime Minister and his service to the kingdom. His prison sentence was reduced to one year.

Thaksin suffered a dangerous hypertensive crisis before being transferred by prison authorities
Thaksin’s Eight-year prison term commuted to One by the Thai King in a Royal Gazette bulletin 
Thaksin on the verge of returning home to his family after early prison release has now been approved

Under new parole regulations, Mr Thaksin was included in a list presented last week by the Corrections Department to Minister of Justice Thawee Sodsong. He was granted parole on the 18th of February 2024.

Escorted home by youngest daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra who is at this time, the leader of the current ruling political party in Thailand’s government

Mr Thaksin’s youngest daughter Paetongtarn was with him when he left the Police General Hospital in Bangkok on Sunday morning.

Ms Paetongtarn is the leader of Pheu Thai, the current ruling political party in a government formed in September 2023.

Previously, Thaksin returned to Thailand briefly in February 2008 after being deposed. After that, he again left in July 2008 and did not return for over fifteen years.

Certainly, Sunday was another historic moment as Thaksin, now 74 years old and reportedly ill, returned to his Bangkok home.

Thaksin was formally granted parole in the early hours of the morning. 

Afterwards, he was discharged from Police General Hospital after a six-month stay due to purported serious illnesses. 

He left the hospital at 6:09 a.m. He was accompanied by his two daughters including Ms Paetongtarn. In short order, he arrived at his residence on the Charan Sanitwong 69 Road in the Bang Phlat area at 6:33 a.m.

Under the terms of his parole, Thaksin must present himself to local police once a month, stay within his residence and behave with appropriate decorum including refraining from alcohol.

After 6 months, he will again be a fully free citizen of good standing although prohibited from holding political office.

Questions raised by Mr Thaksin’s rather convenient incarceration in Bangkok. However, this concludes an ongoing controversy over Mr Thaksin’s imprisonment

It is understood that Corrections Department staff and officers were at the hospital to facilitate the required paperwork.

Thaksin’s return sparked a flurry of reactions.

Nationally, it raised questions about the fairness of law enforcement in addition to the current political landscape in Thailand.

On the other hand, the release of Mr Thaksin brings to an end a long-running story and controversy.

In truth, it threatened to galvanise opposition to the government.

While his supporters celebrated his homecoming, others expressed scepticism about preferential treatment and legal equity.

Thaksin’s legal troubles hark back to his time as Prime Minister. 

After the 2006 coup d’état, there was a concerted effort to examine Thaksin’s dynamic period in power. From this came a host of charges and cases against him

In truth, investigators and prosecutors minutely examined his time in power after the 2006 coup d’état.

Subsequently, convictions ranged from charges related to an Export-Import Bank of Thailand loan to allegations regarding illegal lotteries and abuse of power.

In another case, he was found guilty of using proxy shareholders in a firm which was granted a lucrative phone licence

During his enforced exile, one case against him was dismissed while another extended beyond Thailand’s Statute of Limitations.

Mr Thaksin still faces a possible 2016 charge in relation to Article 112 of the Criminal Code related to lèse-majesté. This is currently with the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).

Despite his absence, Thaksin retained a strong support base, particularly among rural communities and the working class.

Move Forward Party raises the issue of double standards given what is seen as the lenient treatment of Mr Thaksin. At the same time, activists are being jailed

The Move Forward Party (MFP), on Sunday, voiced concern about the circumstances of Thaksin’s incarceration. 

Additionally, it questioned whether the law was enforced without discrimination referring to other cases. The party emphasised the importance of equal treatment under the law. It called for transparency in the judicial process.

From Sunday morning in the early hours, Thaksin’s return was meticulously documented by the media. 

Excited reporters provided detailed accounts of his journey from the hospital to his residence. Clad in a chequered green and blue shirt and face mask, with neck and arm braces, Thaksin left the hospital in a van at 6:09 a.m.

As soon as he exited the hospital control area, the black Mercedes Benz people carrier was greeted by a crowd of reporters.

He arrived at his residence at 6:33 a.m.

In short, hundreds of supporters and onlookers awaited his arrival. This came despite calls in recent days among his support base to give the family privacy.

Thaksin received a warm family welcome at home and was pictured sitting by the family swimming pool ruminating on the 17 years spent away from his home

Within minutes of his arrival at the family residence, Mr Paetongtarn showed a photograph of Thaksin sitting beside a pool savouring the moment of his return home.

Many observers noted he was wearing a safety collar, short pants and arm sling. In effect, he looked like a recently released but sick former prison inmate.

As he arrived at the residence he was greeted by a banner on the gate produced by his grandchildren.

The display included the former PM’s nickname ‘Tony’ and welcomed Grandad home with ‘love’ and heart signs.

Later, arrivals were seen entering the home in people carriers.

These included Mr Thaksin’s former wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra. Thaksin divorced his 68-year-old wife in 2008 not long after taking flight from Thailand.

Formerly, she was charged over the purchase of land in the Ratchadaphisek area of Bangkok in 2003.

The 33 rai of land was purchased at a discounted price of ฿772 million from a state development fund. Thaksin was accused of facilitating his wife as Prime Minister.

Thaksin says he simply wants to retire and spend the last years of his life with his young grandchildren

The significance of Thaksin’s return extends beyond his personal story.

It simultaneously reflects the complexities of Thai politics and society. His presence in Bangkok reignites debates about reconciliation, national unity, and the future of Thai democracy.

While his supporters welcomed his return as a step towards healing past divisions, critics expressed concern.

There are implications for political stability and the reversion of democratic norms. Mr Thaksin has consistently proved to be a lightning rod for conservatives seeking a common cause. 

As Thaksin settles back into his residence, Thailand braces for the impact of his return on the country’s political landscape.

Many seasoned observers hope he will retire quietly into obscurity with his grandchildren. This is what he has said he will do.

On Sunday, the country’s largest political party, Move Forward, expressed disquiet over Thaksin’s treatment as a prisoner.

The party, which itself faces dissolution after a recent Constitutional Court ruling, said the case had raised questions.

In particular, the prospect of double standards being applied to prisoners in Thailand. It comes as pro-democracy activists are jailed in the kingdom on both lèse-majesté charges and sedition under the Criminal Code.

Thailand has changed considerably since 2006

Thaksin’s influence, both revered and reviled, continues to shape public discourse and electoral dynamics.

Whether his return heralds a new era of prosperity and progress or further political polarisation remains to be seen. The former is now highly unlikely

Thailand has changed immeasurably since Thaksin was last in power.

Growth projection for 2024 now only 2.8% with the outlook far from positive. Indeed, the government’s own negative rhetoric poses a danger in itself to confidence

The two decades since have seen falling foreign investment and the emergence of chronic economic problems.

Thailand’s economy, one of the worst performers in Southeast Asia, is only expected to grow by 2.8% in 2024. This follows a disappointing expansion of only 1.8% in 2023.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Thaksin on the verge of returning home to his family after early prison release has now been approved

Ex PM Thaksin hit with a bombshell as police pursue lèse-majesté criminal charge against him from 2016

Thaksin can serve the rest of his prison term at home says Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin

Former PM Thaksin up for release on October 13th as his prison status becomes more controversial

Mr Thaksin helicoptered to Police Hospital at 3am after feeling ill says Department of Corrections

Police worry for Thaksin’s safety on Tuesday after he lands at Don Mueang

Fears of political betrayal abound as Thaksin plans to touchdown at Don Mueang Airport on Tuesday

Thaksin and Pheu Thai have burned their bridges with its national ‘family’ and loyal support base