His Majesty the King has granted a royal pardon to jailed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, reducing his combined jail sentence from eight years to one, according to an announcement published in the Royal Gazette on Friday.
The pardon, dated Aug 31, was countersigned by outgoing prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The pardon was granted one day after outgoing deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-gnam on Thursday received a petition seeking a royal pardon formally filed by Thaksin.
The 74-year-old inmate petitioned for a royal pardon not long after returning on Aug 22 after 15 years of self-exile abroad. On the day he returned, the Supreme Court ordered Thaksin to be jailed for eight years -- a combined three years from two cases and five years in a third case.
In the first case, Thaksin had been sentenced in absentia to three years for conflict of interest. The court said Thaksin had ordered the state-run Export-Import Bank to lend 4 billion baht at a below-cost interest rate to Myanmar so that it could buy products from Shin Satellite Plc, a company owned by his family.
In the second case, Thaksin was convicted of illegally launching a two- and three-digit lottery between 2003 and 2006. This was an abuse of power as the scheme was not supported by any legislation, the court said.
In the third case, the court sentenced Thaksin, who made his fortune in the telecoms industry, to five years for malfeasance in connection with the handling of telephone concessions and conflict of interest from 2001 and 2006 during his two terms as prime minister.
The royal pardon announcement stated that when Thaksin served as prime minister, he made contributions to the country and the people. He was also loyal to the monarchy.
When he was indicted and the court handed down its jail sentences, "he respected the judicial process, admitted his guilt, repented and accepted penalties handed down by the court", the petition added.
"Now he is old and has illnesses that need care from medical professionals."
The petition asked that the former prime minister be pardoned so that he can "make use of his knowledge, abilities and experience to help and contribute to the nation, society and people in the future".
According to the text published in the Royal Gazette, His Majesty acknowledged the petition and granted a royal pardon.
After the pardon was granted, Mr Wissanu said that Thaksin could no longer seek another royal pardon and the jail sentence reduced to one year could not be commuted further.
"Thaksin will have to serve one year in jail without any further reduction," Mr Wissanu said, adding that Thaksin will still be treated as a normal prisoner.
"Once he recovers from his illness, he will be sent back to jail. If his condition does not improve, he will remain in hospital," Mr Wissanu said.
According to a source at the Department of Corrections, Thaksin is classified as a medium-grade prisoner, so he is not eligible for parole. He must complete his one-year jail term.
Paetongtarn "Ung Ing" Shinawatra, Thaksin's youngest daughter, said on Instagram: "I, Thaksin, and the Shinawatra family have greatly appreciated His Majesty the King's kindness.
"Thaksin will use his knowledge, abilities and experience from his whole life to contribute to the country, society, and the people, as well as serve the royal institution. Long live the King," she wrote.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Friday congratulated Thaksin and his family after he was granted a royal pardon. Thaksin returned to Thailand on Aug 22 the same day Pheu Thai's Mr Srettha was elected prime minister in parliament.
Upon his return, Thaksin was sent to a quarantine area of Bangkok Remand Prison soon after the Supreme Court sentenced him to eight years in prison.
Within 13 hours, he was transferred to the Police General Hospital, suffering from chest pain, hypertension, and low blood oxygen saturation. He has remained there since.
Winyat Chartmontri, Thaksin's lawyer, said that the next step is for the Department of Corrections to proceed to reduce Thaksin's jail term in line with the royal pardon.