Democrats push for parole reforms

Democrats push for parole reforms

Thaksin case leads to call for decisions to be placed in hands of independent body and courts

A guard stands at the gate of Klong Prem Central Prison in Bangkok. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A guard stands at the gate of Klong Prem Central Prison in Bangkok. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The opposition Democrat Party plans to propose a bill aimed at amending the 2017 Corrections Act to shift the job of approving prison sentence reductions and parole to an independent committee and the court.

Authority to do so is currently held by a parole committee from the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Justice.

The government cannot deny its involvement in the controversial decision to grant parole to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which has triggered a debate over whether he deserved early release, Democrat list-MP Jurin Laksanawisit said on Wednesday.

Thaksin, who never spent a single night behind bars, was among 930 prisoners approved for parole this month based on various criteria, Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong said recently. In Thaksin’s case, early release was granted because he was over age 70 and suffering from serious illnesses.

“The question is what have people gained from this government now that the ‘diva prisoner’ [Thaksin] has what he wants?” Mr Jurin said.

“The worst part of this [alleged privilege] is that it has sent the wrong message to the general public that corrupt people actually can get away with misconduct. This sin will stick with the Srettha government for eternity.”

The Democrat Party has proposed a bill to place the power of approving jail term reductions and parole in the hands of an independent committee and the court, he said.

Former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, meanwhile, said the grounds cited to justify Thaksin’s early release on Sunday could be used against individuals or agencies involved in certifying the former premier’s health, which may be false.

He was referring to a press briefing conducted by Pheu Thai Party spokesman Danuporn Punnakan on Tuesday in response to growing questions as to how seriously ill Thaksin is.

Thaksin had Covid-19 on three occasions, which had resulted in him suffering from long Covid syndrome and his lungs are unable to fully function, said Mr Danuporn. He said he obtained the information about Thaksin’s health from Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Thaksin’s daughter and the Pheu Thai Party leader.

Thaksin has also been found to be suffering from cervical spondylosis, a type of degenerative disease that affects the neck, which explained why the ex-premier was seen wearing a neck collar, said the spokesman.

As well, the 74-year-old parolee has shoulder tendon degeneration for which he had surgery while staying at the Police General Hospital, said Mr Danuporn, adding that Thaksin still needs physical rehabilitation for a full year following that operation.

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