A legal scholar is pressing the Department of Corrections to respond to questions about whether former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra really is so seriously ill that he requires treatment in a premium ward at the Police General Hospital as claimed.
Most people are now wondering if Thaksin will be able to remain in the hospital until his one-year jail term finishes, Asst Prof Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law of Thammasat University, said on Tuesday.
The answer, he said, is actually hinted at in a recent Ministry of Justice regulation pertaining to the detention of sick inmates who require treatment outside the department’s medical facilities.
The regulation in question was signed in 2020 by former justice minister Somsak Thepsutin, who has now emerged as a deputy prime minister in the new Pheu Thai Party-led government, said Asst Prof Prinya.
Under this regulation, any prisoners who are sick and need treatment outside the prison can obtain it if approved by the chief of the prison, he said. Treatment in a private hospital is also allowed if considered necessary.
If such treatment requires a stay of more than 30 days in a hospital outside the prison, it must be approved by the director-general of the department, based on a medical opinion pointing to the need to continue the treatment, he said.
If the treatment lasts more than 60 days, approval by the permanent secretary for justice is needed, while approval by the justice minister is required if treatment lasts more than 120 days.
Thaksin returned to Thailand on Aug 22 after more than 15 years of self-exile abroad. Within hours he was sentenced to eight years in prison stemming from convictions for conflict of interest and abuse of authority while in office prior to 2006. Last Friday he was granted a royal pardon that reduced the time he must serve to one year.
Asst Prof Prinya said that the director-general of the Department of Corrections should clear up doubts raised about whether Thaksin is being given privileges over other prisoners as part of a political deal. A detailed explanation as to why Thaksin has to be in the hospital must be provided, he added.
Sept 21 will be the 30th day since the former premier was transferred from the Bangkok Remand Prison to the hospital, said Asst Prof Prinya.
“All prisoners, rich or poor, need to be treated equally,” he said. “And the same rule applies — they have to return to the prison after they get well. Otherwise, this will become a big issue that will definitely impact the government.”
Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, the national police chief, said it was the responsibility of the Department of Corrections to offer an explanation to the public as to how long Thaksin will have to stay at the hospital and why.
Within 13 hours after Thaksin was admitted to the prison’s quarantine area on Aug 22, he was transferred to the Police General Hospital, reportedly suffering from chest pain, hypertension, and low blood oxygen saturation. He has remained there since.
Political activist Srisuwan Janya, meanwhile, accused Mr Somsak of intentionally pushing to pass the ministerial regulation specifically to serve Thaksin, while knowing that is against the constitution.
An associated ministerial regulation, also signed by Mr Somsak, would allow Thaksin to seek to have his remaining 1-year jail term suspended citing his health problems, said Mr Srisuwan.
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is currently being treated on the 14th floor of Police General Hospital. (Photo: Chainwit via Wikimedia Commons)