Thaksin seen as returning to politics following parole release

Thaksin seen as returning to politics following parole release

Supporters of Thaksin and journalists are seen in front of the Shinawatra family's Ban Chan Song La residence after his return home. Apichart Jinakul
Supporters of Thaksin and journalists are seen in front of the Shinawatra family's Ban Chan Song La residence after his return home. Apichart Jinakul

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Sunday confirmed the legality of parole for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, saying that it complies with justice system regulations.

Speaking in the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon after Thaksin was discharged from Police General Hospital (PGH), the prime minister said that if the parole leads to better politics, he believes Thais will be happy.

"Thaksin returned to the country to face the justice system and his parole complied with regulations of the Department of Corrections, Police General Hospital and the Justice Ministry,'' Mr Srettha said.

The prime minister said that if Thaksin had any advice for his government, it would be warmly received by his cabinet ministers as the former prime minister had good intentions for the nation and had accumulated experience during his overseas stay.

However, Mr Srettha said he thought Thaksin for the time being was likely to focus on matters closer to home rather than political issues after being separated from his family for so long.

Thaksin was seen leaving the PGH in a van together with his two daughters at 6.10am on Sunday, the first day of his parole.

Later, about 6.30am, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, his youngest daughter and now leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, posted on Instagram that they were home at their Ban Chan Song La residence in Bang Phlat district.

His release, following a six-month hospital detention, which began a few hours after he returned to Thailand on Aug 22 last year after 15 years spent living in self-imposed exile abroad, was met with a mixed reaction on social media on Sunday.

One common observation, however, was that Thaksin's presence after being released on parole would instantly change the country's political landscape.

Thaksin will now be seen as the centre of the government's political power and overshadow the incumbent Prime Minister Srettha. At the same time, Ban Chan Song La is expected to become the unnofficial headquarters of the coalition. Mr Srettha on Sunday dismissed qualms about relinquishing his political power to Thaksin who most critics already see as the de facto leader of the coalition.

The main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), in a Facebook post on Sunday, reiterated its opinion that although it believes Thaksin was many years ago a victim of military interference in Thailand's democracy, it is incorrect for the Pheu Thai-led coalition to offer him privileges as compensation for the unfair treatment he received when overthrown in a military coup back then.

"Thai society wants democracy, and that comes with the rule of law and a judicial system for all, which is free of double standards or privileges being offered to the elites," said the MFP in the same post.

For Assoc Prof Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, a politics and development expert at the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said that in opting to be seen while leaving the hospital early on Sunday, Thaksin conveyed a strong message intended for his opponents -- he will return to politics.

"Like many other political analysts, I thought he [Thaksin] would have opted to leave the hospital without being seen. The choice he made [about his leaving the hospital openly] suggests he will shrug off criticism while affirming his power over the government and society," said Assoc Prof Phichai.

With the Pheu Thai Party now struggling to cope with a less favourable political situation connected with its controversial 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme, Thaksin might already see himself as the only person who can raise the party's popularity, said Assoc Prof Phichai.

Chartthaipattana Party leader Varawut Silpa-archa, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude towards Sunday's release of Thaksin, saying he was glad to see the Shinawatra family reunite with its leader once again and expected to see Ban Chan Song La become as lively as it used to be years ago.

"I think Ung Ing [Ms Paetongtarn] will have more than moral support with her father home. She now has an adviser whom she can turn to any time around the clock," said Mr Varawut, who described himself as being more like one of Thaksin's cousins, given the close tie between his late father, Banharn, and Thaksin.

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