Thaksin’s Return Thailand: Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently returned to Thailand after 15 years of self-imposed exile, found himself swiftly imprisoned upon his arrival. However, he was later relocated to a luxurious section of a state hospital, citing heart issues. Throughout his legal battles, Mr. Thaksin has consistently maintained that the corruption and abuse of power charges against him were politically motivated.
Deposed from power by a military coup in 2006, Thaksin, an influential and polarizing figure in Thai politics, left the country in 2008 to evade a prison sentence. His return in August was seen as part of a broader political agreement. This deal aimed to unite his popular Pheu Thai party with former adversaries in a power-sharing government. Shortly after his return, a new coalition government led by Pheu Thai selected Srettha Thavisin as the new Prime Minister. This coalition included individuals from the military who had overthrown his party in a 2014 coup.
Mr. Thaksin had anticipated some leniency as part of this agreement, and King Vajiralongkorn swiftly responded to his plea for a pardon by reducing his eight-year sentence to just one year. Mr. Thaksin is expected to remain in the hospital.
In response to his pardon request, the royal gazette noted his age and “illness,” acknowledging his contributions to the country and loyalty to the monarchy. However, Mr. Thaksin likely hoped for a complete overturning of his sentence, not just a reduction.
His continued confinement will limit his influence within his party, which is grappling with the challenges of managing a sprawling coalition where it holds only about half of the parliamentary seats. Moreover, it faces formidable opposition from the youthful Move Forward party, which outperformed Pheu Thai in the previous general election.
Despite the coalition agreement between Pheu Thai and Move Forward, they were unable to secure the approval of the 250-member unelected senate, which holds the power to join the 500 elected MPs in selecting Thailand’s Prime Minister.
Thaksin’s return and acceptance of his sentence appear to have brought an end to the longstanding rivalry with conservative royalists that has dominated Thai politics for the past two decades. However, this move has also diminished his political standing significantly.