After 15 years, Thaksin returns home

After 15 years, Thaksin returns home

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sits next to his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra as they leave Police General Hospital after being granted parole, in Bangkok on Sunday. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sits next to his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra as they leave Police General Hospital after being granted parole, in Bangkok on Sunday. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra left Police General Hospital and returned to his residence on Charan Sanitwong 69 Road in Bang Phlat district after more than 15 years of absence as he was paroled on Sunday.

Thaksin, 74, was discharged from Police General Hospital early Sunday morning. He had stayed there for for six months, ostensibly due to serious and life-threatening illnesses, after he returned to the country on the morning of Aug 22, 2023.

According to judicial authorities, he met the criteria for parole because he is over 70 years old, is seriously ill and is considered to have served at least six months of his jail term despite being admitted to Police General Hospital.

Thaksin – wearing a long-sleeved shirt, neck and arm braces, shorts and a face mask – left the hospital with his children in a van at 6.09am on Sunday. Hundreds of reporters saw a van arriving at his Chan Song La residence at 6.33am.

After his return to the country on Aug 22, 2023, Thaksin was brought to the Supreme Court, which sentenced him to eight years in jail in three cases.

He was then taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison, but late that night – or early the next morning –  corrections officials moved him to Police General Hospital, saying he needed modern treatment equipment for several critical conditions, including chest pain, hypertension and low blood oxygen.

Thaksin's eight-year imprisonment covered three separate cases. In the first, the then premier was found guilty of having conflict of interest in the Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Bank). He had ordered the bank to lend 4 billion baht at a below-market interest rate to the Myanmar government in 2004 so it could buy products from Shin Satellite Plc, a company then owned by his family.

In another case, the Supreme Court found Thaksin had illegally launched a two- and three-digit lottery between 2003 and 2006. He was found guilty of breaching the Criminal Code by abusing his power as the scheme was not supported by any legislation.

In the other case Thaksin was convicted of malfeasance and conflict of interest for illegally holding shares through proxies in the state's phone concessionaires.

The eight-year term was reduced to one year in a royal pardon in September 2023.

While being prosecuted in many cases over 15 years ago, Thaksin sought court permission to leave the country on July 31, 2008, in order to give special lectures in Japan and attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

He did not return to the country as promised to testify in the Supreme Court in the Ratchadaphisek land purchase case on Aug 11, 2008.

On Oct 21, 2008, the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions sentenced Thaksin in absentia to two years in jail, convicting him of violating the National Counter-Corruption Act in the Ratchadaphisek land purchase.

He was charged with abusing his authority while being prime minister to facilitate his then-wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra's purchase of 33 rai of land on Thiam Ruam Mit Road in the Ratchadaphisek area from the Bank of Thailand's Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) at a discounted price of 772 million baht in 2003.

The statute of limitations of the case expired in 2018.

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