Thaksin to be indicted on lese-majeste charge
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Thaksin to be indicted on lese-majeste charge

Lawyers say video of offending comments may have been doctored, ex-PM ordered to answer charge on June 18

Thaksin Shinawatra is swamped by supporters as he enters the Pheu Thai Party headquarters in March 2024. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Thaksin Shinawatra is swamped by supporters as he enters the Pheu Thai Party headquarters in March 2024. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Attorney-General has decided to indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for lese-majeste arising from an interview in 2015, sending shockwaves through the government in which Thaksin is widely regarded as a key behind-the-scenes figure.

In the wake of the bombshell decision, critics have asked whether an indictment is enough to trigger the end of Thaksin’s status as a parolee and put him behind bars.

Meanwhile, his lawyers are asking if the video of the interview on which the Attorney-General based his decision is the genuine article or has been doctored to make the Pheu Thai Party godfather look bad.

Thaksin was alleged to have defamed the monarchy in comments made during an interview with the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo on May 21, 2015, during which he claimed privy councillors supported the 2014 coup that ousted the government of his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The original complaint about the interview was made in 2015 by Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, then deputy defence minister in the military government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Gen Udomdej instructed the Judge Advocate General’s Department to bring legal action against Thaksin. A lawsuit was subsequently filed by the OAG. The Criminal Court accepted the case for trial in 2015 and issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin, who was still abroad and did not return to Thailand until August last year.

Police allege that the comments made during the interview violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese-majeste law, as well as the Computer Crimes Act.

Prayut Phetcharakhun, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), said on Wednesday morning that Attorney-General Amnat Chetcharoenrak made the decision on Monday to indict Thaksin on both charges, as proposed by police.

The computer crime charge stems from Thaksin inputting information into a computer system that was deemed a threat to national security, Mr Prayut said.

However, public prosecutors could not arraign Thaksin in court immediately on Wednesday because his lawyer submitted a medical certificate showing that he had Covid-19 and needed to rest until next Monday. He sought to postpone the hearing of the indictment to June 15.

Mr Prayut said prosecutors have ordered the paroled former prime minister to appear at the OAG at 9am on June 18 for the indictment process.

A decision on the indictment had been expected on April 10 but Mr Amnat postponed the announcement, pending the receipt of an additional interrogation report from police.

After Thaksin was paroled on Feb 18, police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division took over the lese-majeste and computer crime charges and approved his temporary release.

Following the Attorney-General’s announcement, Thaksin’s lawyer Winyat Chartmontri said his client would fight the charges.

“We have to proceed based on our rights in a criminal case,” Mr Winyat said. “Thaksin is ready to prove his innocence in the justice system.”

Asked whether Thaksin would show up to answer his indictment as required, Mr Winyat said it was his client’s responsibility to be present.

He also said Thaksin’s team of lawyers suspects the video the police are using as evidence in this criminal case isn’t the original but a doctored copy. They aim to get the video examined by experts to prove it isn’t genuine as suspected, said Mr Winyat.

As for those who have asked how Thaksin could suddenly fall ill on Tuesday, one day before the indictment decision, Mr Winyat said he couldn’t stop them from speculating, but Thaksin’s medical certificate was issued by a medical professional.

In another development, Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong insisted the decision to have Thaksin arraigned would not result in him losing his parole because Thaksin is still considered innocent.

Earlier, Thepthai Senapong, a former Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat, said he believed the indictment would automatically result in Thaksin’s parole being terminated and him being sent back to jail.

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