Bangkok, Sep 1 (EFE).- Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday reduced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s eight-year prison sentence to one.
Thaksin had asked for a royal pardon on Thursday after returning to the country from a 15-year self-exile last week.
According to the royal gazette, the king attributed the commutation of Thaksin’s sentence to his age (74 years) and health problems as well as his service to the country as prime minister and his loyalty to the monarchy.
The gazette said that Thaksin had admitted guilt for the crimes for which he was convicted and that, upon his release, he would be able to use his knowledge, skills and experience to serve and benefit the country and its people.
The order, issued a day after it was announced that the former prime minister had requested a royal pardon, is signed by Vajiralongkorn and former Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, who is in the process of transferring power to the new head of government, Srettha Thavisin.
Thaksin 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.
The benefits granted to the former prime minister are a sign of reconciliation with the pro-military and monarchist elite with which he has been at odds over the past 17 years.
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