Pheu Thai stance on lese majeste is firm

Pheu Thai stance on lese majeste is firm

Thaksin charge for defamation possible

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai
Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai restated on Wednesday the Pheu Thai Party's opposition to incorporating lese majeste offences into an amnesty plan, despite the potential indictment of jailed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for insulting the monarchy.

He said the ruling party's stance on the lese majeste law and the proposed amnesty for political offences remains unchanged and has nothing to do with the lese majeste charge against Thaksin, who is widely respected by Pheu Thai ranks and file.

According to Mr Phumtham, Thaksin's return from self-imposed exile in August last year serves as an indication that the ex premier is ready to enter the justice administration process.

The lese majeste charge against Thaksin has been discussed in the wake of speculation the deposed PM, who will have completed half of his prison term by Feb 18, is likely to be granted an early release.

The Department of Corrections (DoC) reportedly compiled a list of eligible inmates for parole and special parole, with Thaksin meeting the criteria for the latter.

However, some political observers pointed out he could be re-arrested or detained due to the lese majeste case being reviewed by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG).

The Technology Crime Suppression Division submitted the lese majeste case against Thaksin in connection with comments he made in Seoul, South Korea, on May 21, 2015. The attorney-general has yet to decide if he will be indicted.

Narinpong Jinaphak, chairman of the Lawyers' Association of Thailand, said Thaksin will be able to return home when he is granted an early release. Despite the early release, Thaksin is under supervision of the DoC and thus cannot be re-arrested or detained.

Thaksin is required to stay at a designated address and report to authorities. If he is indicted, he will be required to meet prosecutors so he can be arraigned in court, said Mr Narinpong.

Former Democrat MP Patchara Phetthong on Wednesday warned state officials they could end up being charged with malfeasance for helping Thaksin avoid jail.

He said he filed a petition with the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) against the DoC chief, the surgeon-general at the Police General Hospital and Justice Minister Pol Col Tawee Sodsong over Thaksin's extended hospitalisation outside prison.

Thaksin was admitted to a premium ward at the Police General Hospital a few hours after being sent to Bangkok Remand Prison, following his return from years of self-imposed exile on Aug 22 last year. He has been there since amid accusations that he receives preferential treatment.

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