Thaksin faces old charge of lese majeste

Thaksin faces old charge of lese majeste

May be detained even if granted parole

Spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General Prayut Phetcharakhun, centre, during a press conference about the request for the detention of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. (Photo supplied)
Spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General Prayut Phetcharakhun, centre, during a press conference about the request for the detention of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. (Photo supplied)

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra still faces a criminal charge of lese majeste dating back to 2016, and the attorney-general will decide if he will be indicted, the OAG spokesman said on Tuesday.

Prayut Phetcharakhun, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General, said that on Feb 16, 2016, the OAG received the case from police at the Technology Crime Suppression Division. Thaksin was alleged to have defamed the monarchy in comments made in Seoul, South Korea, on May 21, 2015.

According to spokesman Prayut, on Sept 19, 2016, then attorney-general Pongniwat Yuthapanboripan decided to indict Thaksin. At the time, Thaksin was a fugitive and the former attorney-general told police to seek an arrest warrant from the Criminal Court. The court issued the warrant.

After Thaksin returned to the country on Aug 22, 2023, police presented the arrest warrant to the Department of Corrections and sought his detention in the event that the 74-year-old former prime minister was released.

On Jan 17 this year, public prosecutors and police informed Thaksin of the lese majeste charge and a related computer crime charge. Thaksin denied the charges and filed a written petition for fair treatment. The present attorney-general had yet to decide if Thaksin should be indicted, he said.

OAG deputy spokesman Nakhen Thongpraiwan said the Department of Corrections had not responded to the request for Thaksin's continued detention. By law, the response must be given seven days before his release.

If the former PM's detention was extended, police interrogators would decide if Thaksin should be allowed temporary release during the questioning process, Mr Nakhen said. Thaksin had not so far been interrogated in this case.

Corrections director-general Sahakarn Phetnarin said on Tuesday that in principle Thaksin met criteria for parole, being old and ill and having served at least one-third of his prison term. Mr Sahakarn said his department had already prepared a list of inmates eligible for parole for the consideration of a parole committee and the justice minister.

In May 2015, Thaksin gave an interview to Chosun Ilbo in Seoul and claimed privy councillors supported the May 22, 2014, coup that ousted the government of his younger sister Ying­luck Shinawatra.

A video clip of the interview was viewed widely on Thai social media.

Police believe comments made during the interview could have been in violation under the lese majeste law and the computer crime law. Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law, provides for punishment of 3-15 years in prison for each offence.

After 15 years of self-imposed exile, Thaksin returned to Thailand on Aug 22, 2023. The Supreme Court ordered his eight-year imprisonment for his previous and finalised legal cases. The sentence was later reduced to one year by royal clemency.

On the first night of his stay at Bangkok Remand Prison, corrections doctors determined that he should be transferred to Police General Hospital because of his serious illnesses.

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets supporters after he arrived at Don Mueang airport on Aug 22, 2023. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

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