Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets supporters and journalists upon his arrival at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok, Thailand, 22 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Thailand’s ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra requests royal pardon

Bangkok, Aug 31 (EFE).- Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence, has asked for a royal pardon, the government said Thursday.

Outgoing Justice Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters that the caretaker government had received the former prime minister’s request and that the process – until King Vajiralongkorn decides whether to grant him the pardon or not – would take one to two months.

Wissanu added that a royal pardon could normally be requested by prisoners who had served a third of their sentence or eight years in prison but that Thaksin was eligible to do so as he was over 70 years old.

Thaksin, 74, returned to Thailand on Aug. 22 after 15 years in self-exile and was taken a few hours later to the Bangkok remand prison in the capital to serve an eight-year jail sentence for several cases of corruption and abuse of power for which he was convicted in absentia.

However, that same day he was admitted to the prison’s hospital for various ailments and after midnight was transferred to the Police Hospital in Bangkok where he is currently in a private room.

Amid criticism that Thaksin was receiving favorable treatment, the government has said that he suffers from several chronic ailments such as heart disease, pressure in the chest, hypoxemia and hypertension.

Thaksin, a millionaire businessman who enjoys widespread support in rural areas due to his social policies, ruled Thailand between 2001 and 2006, when he was ousted in a coup and later sentenced in several cases as part of what he claims to be political persecution.

His return to Thailand last week coincided with Pheu Thai candidate Srettha Thavisin being elected prime minister, even as the party – which had again been ousted from power in 2014 – continues to be controlled by the Shinawatra clan.

Pheu Thai, which won the second highest number of votes in the May election, had at first allied with the winning party Move Forward, a progressive group that had fought the elections on a pro-democracy and anti military plank.

However, Move Forward was blocked from forming the government by the Senate, handpicked by the former military junta (2014-2021).

Subsequently Pheu Thai formed another coalition with pro-military parties, an unusual alliance that has caused unease among many voters who had been seeking a pro-democratic shift in national politics. EFE