Bangkok, Sep 11 (EFE).- Air conditioning, refrigerator, television and a sofa are a few of the facilities afforded to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra since he was admitted to serve a prison sentence in a prestigious hospital, after returning to the country following 15 years in self-imposed exile.
Thaksin, 74, headed the country from 2001 to 2006 and returned to Thailand on Aug. 22 and entered the Bangkok Remand prison to serve eight years in prison that weighed on him 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 hospital for various ailments and after midnight he was transferred to the Police Hospital in Bangkok, where he is now in a private room.
A few days later, the former prime minister, ousted from power in a military coup in 2006, also saw his sentence reduced from the initially established eight years to one year in prison thanks to an order from King Vajiralongkorn. This was justified on grounds of advanced age, health problems, his services as prime minister and loyalty to the monarchy.
His return to Thailand last month coincided with the election as prime minister of Srettha Thavisin, the candidate of the Pheu Thai party controlled by the Shinawatra clan and which was ousted from power by another military coup in 2014.
Although the benefits granted represent a sign of reconciliation with the pro-military and monarchical elite that Thaksin has faced in recent decades, the differential treatment has caused discomfort in various sectors of society and generated criticism from activists, politicians, Internet users and organizations.
Authorities, for their part, have denied the allegations and have attributed the former president’s transfer to the hospital to several chronic illnesses, such as heart problems, hypertension and hypoxemia.
According to local press reports, the private room in which Thaksin is located as air conditioning, a television, a refrigerator, a sofa and dining table. Likewise, he is allegedly also under medical care 24 hours a day, with a team of at least six doctors entirely at his disposal.
At the beginning of the month, political activist Srisuwan Janya filed a complaint with the Ombudsman and requested that an investigation be opened into the position of Thai officials for “not offering Thaksin the same treatment” given to other prisoners since his arrival in the country.
In his petition, Srisuwan said the former prime minister was not handcuffed or detained by police after landing at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport in his private jet, where he walked freely and greeted hundreds of followers who came to the terminal to welcome him.
Srisuwan also criticized reports that Thaksin would not have to wear his hair short, a requirement applied to all male prisoners in Thailand.
“I urged the Ombudsman’s office, an independent agency, to investigate the officials responsible for providing special treatment to this prisoner to stop injustice and double standards,” said the activist, who also asked the National Anti-Corruption Commission to take legal action.
Meanwhile, activists and lawyers have taken the opportunity to rekindle the debate about the situation in Thai prisons, often overcrowded, with limited medical care and dubious hygiene conditions. EFE