BANGKOK — Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reduced the prison sentence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from eight years to one, in a remarkable turn of events that caps an extraordinary decades-long political saga.
Thaksin, the head of a famed political dynasty who had dramatically returned to Thailand from a 15-year self-imposed exile last week, submitted a request for a royal pardon, the country’s outgoing justice minister confirmed Thursday.
A statement published by Thailand’s Royal Gazette Friday said the King had acknowledged Thaksin’s piea and, “with His Majesty’s graciousness, he has reduced the sentence of the male inmate Thaksin Shinawatra to one year.”
The statement added that Thaksin’s service to the country, loyalty to the monarchy and that he had “confessed and regretted” his past actions was taken into account.
“He used to hold a position as the prime minister of Thailand who served the country and his works benefited the people and the country. He holds his loyalty to the monarchy. And when he was charged and convicted by the court to the mentioned imprisonment sentence, with his respect in the justice system, he confessed and regretted to his acts,” the statement said.
“He was willing to serve the sentence while being elderly and having health issues and sickness that must be treated by specialist doctors.”
The statement did not say when exactly Thaksin had submitted his plea for a royal pardon. The king’s command was dated August 31 and undersigned by outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who toppled an elected government once run by Thaksin’s sister.
Thaksin, 74, was prime minister from 2001 until he was ousted in a military coup in 2006. He returned to Thailand briefly in 2008 before fleeing the country over a corruption conviction.
For the first time since he fled, Thaksin flew back to Thailand in a private jet on August 22, where he was met in Bangkok by his family and supporters.
He was taken into custody and sentenced by the Supreme Court to eight years in prison for conflict of interest, abuse of power and corruption during his time in power. Thaksin was found guilty of the charges in absentia during his exile.
Outgoing Justice Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam confirmed to reporters Thursday that he had received Thaksin’s letter requesting a royal pardon from King Vajiralongkorn.
Wissanu, a veteran survivor of Thailand’s febrile politics who has served in government both under Thaksin and with subsequent military juntas, said the royal pardon request will proceed accordingly and “will be processed in accordance with the rules.”
“It is all up to His Majesty’s kindness,” he said.
After his return to Thailand, Thaksin was taken to prison but the following day was transferred to hospital due to chest tightness, high blood pressure and low oxygen levels, according to the Thai Corrections Department, which said his underlying heart disease could not be treated at a prison hospital and that he would need specialist care. — CNN