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Thailand: Former PM Thaksin makes first public appearance

March 14, 2024

Thaksin Shinawatra was only recently released early from jail for graft and abuse of power. The controversially reduced jail term prompted allegations of preferential treatment.

Thaksin Shinawatra
The influential billionaire was accompanied on his trip by his daughter Paetongtarn, the leader of governing Pheu Thai partyImage: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made his first public appearance on Thursday since his early release from jail.

He visited a Bangkok shrine in the morning before flying to the city of Chiang Mai in the north, his birthplace.

The controversial billionaire was accompanied by his daughter Paetongtarn, the leader of the governing Pheu Thai party.

He was only recently freed early from jail  after being convicted of graft and abuse of power.

A divisive political figure

Thaksin, a two-time prime minister and a divisive political figure was ousted in a 2006 coup. The 74-year-old politician spent 15 years in self-exile before returning to Thailand in August 2023.

His return coincided with the Pheu Thai's coming to power as the head of a coalition government that also included the military.

He was immediately sentenced to eight years in prison on charges from his time in power.

The sentence was reduced to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and last month the government granted Thaksin parole because of his age and poor health.

Thailand's former leader Thaksin Shinawatra returns from exile

Still wielding political power

The controversially reduced jail term prompted allegations of preferential treatment. Critics said his return hinted of a possible political deal, especially as his party forms a government with former adversaries.

"He is on parole. If he gets something beyond regular regulations, the probation and corrections departments will have to explain themselves," said Ramet Rattanachaweng, spokesperson for the royalist Democrat party.

The former Manchester City owner still holds political sway in Thailand and is remembered by many for his populist policies from the early 2000s.

"Seventeen years I've been waiting for him," Samniang Kongpolparn told news agency AFP about the former PM.

ss/sms (AP, AFP)