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Imprisoned former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin granted parole, capping reconciliation with military that ousted him

BANGKOK– Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned last year from more than a decade of self-imposed exile to serve a prison sentence for misdeeds while in office, was granted parole and could be released this weekend, the country’s justice minister announced Tuesday. .

Thaksin’s parole would be a symbol of reconciliation between his populist political party and the country’s conservative establishment, a rivalry that defined Thai politics for nearly 20 years and led to two military coups.

Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong told reporters before the weekly Cabinet meeting in Bangkok that Thaksin qualified for early release because he was in the eligible category of seriously ill, disabled or elderly detainees. over 70 years old. Thaksin is 74 years old.

Tawee has not confirmed when Thaksin will be released, but it is widely expected that he could be released as soon as this weekend.

He is currently interned in a police hospital in Bangkok where he is serving time for convictions related to corruption and abuse of power while in office, convictions he has called politically motivated.

Opponents claimed that serving his sentence in a hospital was a special privilege, suggesting it was part of a political deal between his party and the military.

Thaksin had been in exile since 2008, but he voluntarily returned to Thailand in August last year and reported to prison to begin serving an eight-year sentence. He returned to his homeland on the same day that Srettha Thavisin, of the Thaksin-backed Pheu Thai party, won the prime ministership with the support of military-linked parties.

He was transferred to hospital almost immediately for health reasons and about a week later King Maha Vajiralongkorn reduced his sentence to just one year.

Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire who used his fortune to build a populist political party, served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was ousted in a military coup.

He fled the country in 2008 to avoid arrest, but his allies have remained a major force in Thai politics. His sister led the country from 2011 to 2014, when she left office weeks before another coup that installed a military government that held power until last year’s elections.

Srettha told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that Thaksin’s parole was in line with prison department rules since he had already served his sentence. Srettha hailed Thaksin as “one of the most popular prime ministers in Thai political history” and someone who has long worked for the good of the country.

Srettha represents the Pheu Thai party, the latest incarnation of the party founded by Thaksin as Thai Rak Thai, and of which he is still considered the de facto leader.

Thaksin has not yet overcome all legal obstacles. Thai officials announced last week that they had reopened an investigation into allegations of defamation of the monarchy made against Thaksin almost nine years ago. If the Attorney General’s Office decides to charge him, Thaksin could be detained again upon his release.

Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who heads the Pheu Thai party, told reporters last week that she had prepared her residence in Bangkok in anticipation of her release.

Military-backed parties performed poorly in last year’s general elections, and Thailand’s conservative royalist establishment reportedly favored reconciliation with Thaksin’s political machine in order to keep the more progressive Move party out of power. Forward.

Moved Forward placed first in the polls, but was unable to take power when military-appointed members of the Senate refused to endorse its candidate for prime minister.

ABC

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