Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was jailed for eight years on corruption charges, has submitted a request for a royal pardon, according to a government source. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, returned to the country last week after 15 years of self-imposed exile. His homecoming coincided with his political ally Srettha Thavisin becoming the new prime minister with the support of several pro-military parties.
Thaksin’s request for a pardon was confirmed by a senior aide to caretaker justice minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who said the process would depend on the king’s discretion. The request was submitted by Thaksin’s family, local media reported. Thaksin had previously expressed his willingness to face justice in order to return home and see his grandchildren.
Thaksin is one of the most influential but divisive figures in modern Thai history. He is loved by millions of rural Thais for his populist policies in the early 2000s, but reviled by the country’s royalist and pro-military establishment, which has accused him of corruption and disloyalty to the monarchy. He has denied those allegations and claimed that the cases against him were politically motivated.
Thaksin landed in Bangkok last week on a private jet and paid homage to King Maha Vajiralongkorn at the airport. He was then taken to prison, where he was moved to a police hospital on his first night due to health problems. Thai media reported that Thaksin had been installed in a private VIP suite on the 14th floor of the hospital.
Thaksin’s return and Srettha’s election as prime minister have raised speculation that Thaksin had struck a deal with his bitter rivals in the conservative establishment and the military, which had removed him and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra from power in coups in 2006 and 2014 respectively. However, Thaksin has rejected talk of a deal with the generals.