A photograph of Thaksin Shinawatra playing with a grandchild in a swimming pool turns out to have been taken two years ago, and not sometime since the ex-prime minister’s return to Thailand, as a crusading former politician alleged on Friday.
Watchara Phetthong, a former Democrat Party MP, used the picture to back his request that the House panel on police affairs look into suspicions that Thaksin is receiving special treatment at Police General Hospital.
Thaksin, 74, was admitted to the hospital on the night of Aug 22, 13 hours after he was sent to prison, and he has been staying there since. The Royal Thai Police and the Department of Corrections have denied giving the convict any privileged treatment.
Thaksin returned to the country on Aug 22 after more than 15 years of self-exile abroad, and was immediately sentenced to eight years in prison — later reduced to one year — for abuse of authority and conflict of interest while serving as premier prior to 2006.
Mr Watchara said he wanted the House panel to inquire about what criteria Thaksin has met to be granted medical care at Police General Hospital. He also wants the committee to summon the police chief to tell them “on what floor of the hospital the swimming pool was located”.
The pool in question, numerous online sleuths quickly deduced, is not in Thailand but somewhere abroad, possibly in Dubai where Thaksin spent most of his exile.
The picture was posted by his daughter Paetongtarn “Ung Ing” Shinawatra on her Instagram account on July 21, 2021. A video that appears to be from the same location was posted on her account in April 2022.
Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer for Thaksin, on Saturday asked Mr Watchara to make corrections to his story or face legal action.
“I don’t understand why you posed such a question,” he wrote in a letter to the former MP. “Why didn’t you carefully check (the photo)?
“There have been many court verdicts punishing those who failed to check (information and wrongly accuse others). It’s not necessary to call the national police chief. This case is very easy. Just Google and you will find that this photo was taken in 2021.”
Thaksin, meanwhile, continues to recover from unspecified surgery at the hospital. Under the regulations governing inmate transfers to outside hospitals, a stay longer than 30 days must be approved by the director-general of the Department of Corrections, based on a medical opinion.
If the treatment lasts more than 60 days — or beyond Oct 23 in this case — approval by the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Justice is needed. Approval by the justice minister is required if treatment lasts more than 120 days.