In a surprising twist to a long-running political saga, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reduced the prison sentence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from eight years to just one year.
Thaksin Shinawatra, a prominent figure in Thai politics and the head of a renowned political dynasty, made a dramatic return to Thailand last week after spending 15 years in self-imposed exile. His request for a royal pardon was confirmed by the country’s outgoing justice minister.
On Friday, a statement published in Thailand’s Royal Gazette announced that King Maha Vajiralongkorn had granted Thaksin’s request, reducing his sentence to a single year. The statement cited the king’s “graciousness” and took into consideration Thaksin’s service to the country, his loyalty to the monarchy, and his expression of remorse for past actions.
The statement read, “He used to hold a position as the prime minister of Thailand who served the country, and his works benefited the people and the country. He holds his loyalty to the monarchy. And when he was charged and convicted by the court to the mentioned imprisonment sentence, with his respect in the justice system, he confessed and regretted his acts.”
It was also noted that Thaksin, who is now 74 years old, was willing to serve the sentence despite his age and health issues that required treatment by specialist doctors.
The statement did not specify the exact date when Thaksin submitted his plea for a royal pardon. However, the king’s command was dated August 31 and was signed by outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who had previously led a coup against an elected government that was once headed by Thaksin’s sister.
Thaksin Shinawatra served as Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 until his ousting in a military coup in 2006. He briefly returned to Thailand in 2008 but fled the country after being convicted of corruption.
Upon his recent return to Thailand on August 22, Thaksin was immediately taken into custody and subsequently sentenced by the Supreme Court to eight years in prison for charges including conflict of interest, abuse of power, and corruption during his tenure in office. Notably, these charges were levied against him in absentia during his period of exile.
Outgoing Justice Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam confirmed that he had received Thaksin’s letter requesting a royal pardon from King Vajiralongkorn. Wissanu, a seasoned figure in Thailand’s turbulent political landscape, indicated that the request would be processed following established procedures, ultimately resting on the king’s discretion.
Following his return to Thailand, Thaksin was initially placed in prison but was swiftly transferred to a hospital due to health concerns, including chest tightness, high blood pressure, and low oxygen levels. The Thai Corrections Department stated that his underlying heart condition necessitated specialized medical care, which could not be adequately provided in a prison hospital.