Somsak Thepsutin, a former justice minister and new Pheu Thai Party member, has denied an accusation that he had revised a ministerial regulation to help fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Mr Somsak was responding to a remark made by Thanaporn Sriyakul, president of the Political Science Association of Thammasat University.
Mr Thanaporn said that Pheu Thai had warmly welcomed Mr Somsak and Suriya Juangroongruangkit, both key figures of the Sam Mitr group, into its fold after Mr Somsak amended a ministerial regulation so that if Thaksin returned home to serve his jail term, he would not have to stay in jail, but could be detained in other facilities, such as a hospital or in a house.
Mr Somsak and Mr Suriya recently left the Palang Pracharath Party and moved to Pheu Thai. They also quit as justice minister and industry minister respectively. They used to be members of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party, the predecessor of Pheu Thai.
Mr Somsak explained that the Corrections Act was drafted in 2015 before he assumed the post of justice minister in 2019.
When the law was enacted in 2017, the ministerial regulation was then drawn up, a process which took three years before the regulation was issued in 2020, Mr Somsak said while insisting that work on drawing up the regulation started before he assumed the post.
"A minister cannot amend a law on a personal whim. Any proposed legal amendment must be subject to scrutiny from the Council of State [the government's legal advisory body] and parliament," Mr Somsak said.
Speaking in an interview with Kyodo News during a trip to Tokyo on March 24, Thaksin said he was ready to serve his prison term provided he is allowed to spend the rest of his life with his family, regardless of the results of the upcoming general election.
Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and left Thailand in 2008 to avoid facing time in prison.
However, critics did not believe he was serious about returning to Thailand and serving his prison term.