Ex-Thai Prime Minister granted parole

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra walks with his son Panthongtae Shinawatra and daughters Paetongtarn Shinawatra and Pintongtha Kunakornwong at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok, Thailand August 22, 2023. [Reuters]

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been granted parole after serving six months of a one-year prison sentence.

News reports in Thailand say the 74-year-old Thaksin was on a list of 930 prisoners being granted early release because they were either ill or elderly.

He could be released from jail as early as Saturday.

Thaksin was detained last August after returning to Thailand from 15 years of self-imposed exile to avoid imprisonment after being convicted of several corruption-related charges.

He had been sentenced to eight years in prison, but his sentence was commuted to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

He has served nearly all his sentence in a police hospital for treatment of an undisclosed condition.

The media tycoon was first elected prime minister in 2001 and gained a loyal following among Thailand’s rural poor for such policies as universal health care and cash payments to farmers.

But he was overthrown in a coup in 2006 by a military aligned with members of Thailand’s pro-monarchy elite who saw him as a threat to their longstanding grip on the social order.

His return to Thailand coincided with his Pheu Thai party taking the reins of government despite coming in second place in last May’s elections.

The progressive Move Forward Party and its coalition partners scored an upset victory in the elections, but the conservative, military-backed Senate blocked party leader Pita Limjaroenrat from becoming prime minister.

Pheu Thai formed an alliance with military and pro-royalist lawmakers to form a government, which angered many of the party’s longtime supporters.

Thaksin is still facing legal jeopardy.

Prosecutors charged him last week with violating the law that forbids any criticism of the Thai royal family based on comments he made over a decade ago.

Some information for this report came from Reuters, Agence France-Presse.