Thaksin returns home after serving six months in a Bangkok hospital

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will sleep at his Bangkok home again this weekend, after fifteen years.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
12 February 2024 Monday 21:31
6 Reads
Thaksin returns home after serving six months in a Bangkok hospital

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will sleep at his Bangkok home again this weekend, after fifteen years. This Tuesday, the prison authorities granted him permission to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

The communications magnate surrendered to the authorities last August, after a decade and a half as a fugitive. He did so on the same day that his co-religionist, Srettha Thavisin, was elected prime minister of Thailand. He thus became the first civilian to hold the position since Thaksin's own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was removed from power in a coup in 2014.

The pact at the highest level allowed Thaksin to return in his own jet from Singapore and surrender. The trade-offs become known as the months go by. Although the former prime minister had to go to prison, since he was sentenced to two firm sentences in absentia of eight years in prison for prevarication, he barely set foot in the infirmary. A couple of hours later, he was taken to the Police General Hospital, in the center of Bangkok, next to the Central Police Station, probably overlooking the urban golf course right in front of him and one hundred meters from the US embassy facilities.

When barely a few days had passed since his admission to the hospital, "for health reasons", he obtained a royal pardon, which reduced his sentence from eight years to one year. Until today, on paper, he has been fulfilling it in a suite on the 14th floor of said police hospital, where he is the only patient who spends the night.

Many Thais, in fact, doubt that it is there, since no photo has ever circulated. So much so that the head of the Democratic Party's parliamentary committee on police affairs announced an inspection of the police hospital. Although he was able to enter the 14th floor, where on the day of his visit there were eight police officers and prison agents apparently on duty, he also did not allow himself to enter his supposed room. Said deputy also denounced the anomaly that the security cameras of the police hospital and its surroundings have been damaged for years.

Be that as it may, the Thai government insists that the treatment received by Thaksin is strictly normal, as is the granting of probation - "one of 930 requests this month positively resolved, out of a total of 945." The basis for the concession is that the prisoner is over seventy years old and has served half of the sentence (six months), leaving him to serve much less than the ten-year limit (six more months).

Thaksin maintained a struggle that lasted for years with the hard core of power in Bangkok, formed by the military and bureaucratic elite, with real estate and economic ramifications, involved in the staunch defense of the monarchy. Clashes between the "red shirts", supporters of Thaksin and his timid proposals to extend the welfare state, clashed in the streets with the "yellow shirts", who accused the former of disrespecting the monarchy.

The alleged ailments of the former Manchester City owner, successively respiratory and coronary, have not been clarified for reasons of confidentiality. For the past fifteen years, at least on paper, he has not been able to sleep in his Bangkok mansion or any of his many properties in Thailand.

Few believe that, at 74 years old, he will play a relevant role in Thai politics, even when he fully regains his freedom, in six months. Although everything will depend on the agreements he has reached with the military. Nor could anyone imagine less than a year ago that his party would be a lesser evil for the monarchical-military establishment, compared to Avanzar, a rising liberal party, very well connected in Washington. And that, having come second, his Pheu Thai would be tasked with leading the coalition government of eleven parties, including many of his enemies of two decades. Although those most surprised by the script change were his own voters.

The measure of grace has been confirmed by the Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin. "Thaksin did a lot of good things for the country for a long time. When he comes out, he will be a normal citizen."

Srettha, a real estate businessman who is active in Pheu Thai, the latest incarnation of the Shinawatra family party, has reciprocated the good news by announcing today that he will ask officials to wear yellow on Mondays, a color associated with the monarchy. It would seem that the confrontation between "red shirts" and "yellow shirts" has become history, as Thaksin finds a way out of his personal problems. Needless to say, the disappointment is huge among his former supporters, who were legion among the popular classes of Bangkok, who feed on emigration from the rural north.