Jail could endanger Thaksin's life, say prison officials

Jail could endanger Thaksin's life, say prison officials

Department of Corrections says decision to extend hospital stay based on medical advice

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets supporters as he arrives at Don Mueang Airport on Aug 22, 2023, before being taken to the court and later to the Bangkok Remand Prison. (Photo: Bloomberg)
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets supporters as he arrives at Don Mueang Airport on Aug 22, 2023, before being taken to the court and later to the Bangkok Remand Prison. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is seriously ill and must remain in Police General Hospital as a return to jail could endanger his life, according to the Department of Corrections.

In a long-awaited update, the department said on Thursday that it moved Thaksin to the hospital on Aug 23 because he needed continuous treatment and observation for many illnesses that required close monitoring.

The referral was based on safety because the Medical Correctional Hospital lacked equipment for his treatment, the department said.

The statement came a day before a planned visit to the hospital by a House committee seeking to verify Thaksin’s condition in response to growing public scepticism and official silence.

A police spokesperson said on Thursday that the visit could go ahead but the MPs would not be allowed on the 14th floor where the patient is said to be staying. Nor will they be allowed to make a video call to Thaksin.

The head of the Department of Corrections must approve any stay longer than 120 days by an inmate in a medical facility outside a prison hospital, and the minister of justice must acknowledge it. In Thaksin’s case, the 120-day deadline passed on Dec 21 without any news.

The statement said that officials at the Bangkok Remand Prison “recently” asked Police General Hospital about the condition of the 74-year-old inmate. The hospital replied that specialist doctors were treating him and he needed close care until his critical conditions could be resolved.

Sahakarn Phetnarin, the director-general of the Department of Corrections, on Monday extended Thaksin’s stay at the hospital. The statement did not say when the extension would end.

“If there is any complication or life-threatening symptom, treatment can be provided immediately,” it said.

The department said it complied with regulations on the treatment of inmates outside prison and respected inmates’ fundamental rights to privacy. Consequently, it could not publicise the personal data of patients without their consent.

A doctor told the House committee on police affairs recently that Thaksin was suffering from hypertension, narrowed blood vessels and hepatitis B. He has had two surgical procedures for undisclosed conditions since his admission to the hospital. Officials have declined to elaborate.

Opponents still plan to rally at Government House from Friday evening until Sunday to protest against Thaksin’s extended stay at the hospital.

Phichit Chaimongkol, leader of the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand, said many government officials had been jailed for being used as tools to help corrupt politicians. He did not elaborate.

Thaksin, 74, returned to Thailand on Aug 22 last year after 15 years of self-imposed exile to face punishment for corruption and abuse of authority while in office prior to 2006. He was sentenced that same day to eight years in prison, later reduced to one year under a royal pardon.

He could be eligible for parole on Feb 22, when he will have completed six months of his sentence.

He was sent from Bangkok Remand Prison to the Police General Hospital in the early hours of Aug 23 for health reasons and has been there ever since.

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