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Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra freed

Photo: Wason Wanichakorn Associated Press Thaksin Shinawatra was seen through his car windows, wearing a neck brace and sitting next to his daughter Paetongtarn, leaving the police hospital in central Bangkok.

Alexis Hontang – Agence France-Presse in Bangkok

8:20 p.m.

  • Asia

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra regained his freedom on Sunday morning, six months after returning from fifteen years of self-imposed exile.

The 74-year-old billionaire, in power from 2001 until the 2006 coup, was seen through his car windows, wearing a neck corset and sitting next to his daughter Paetongtarn, leaving the police hospital in central Bangkok. He then returned to his home in Bangkok.

Returning from exile on August 22, 2023 after 15 years abroad, Thaksin spent a total of only six months in detention, most of which was in a police hospital in Bangkok, due to health problems.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin confirmed that he would be released on Sunday.

Ultra-popular in the early 2000s, especially among peasants in the North and Northeast, he is suspected of having concluded a pact with his former adversaries, the monarchy and the army, to regain freedom.< /p>

Initially sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption and abuse of power, the former leader benefited in September from a pardon from King Maha Vajiralongkorn who reduced his sentence to one year of imprisonment.

At the beginning of February, the authorities announced that the detainee met the conditions for early release, due to his age and state of health.

Divided country

The framework for Mr. Shinawatra's conditional release is not yet known, but he may have to wear an electronic bracelet or limit his travel, according to an expert interviewed by AFP on Tuesday.

Thaksin Shinawatra is an old lion of Thai political life, who maintains influence through the family party, Pheu Thai, led by Paetongtarn, expected to continue the dynasty.

She could become the third prime minister to bear the name Shinawatra, after Thaksin and Yingluck, her aunt (and Thaksin's sister) who ruled the kingdom from 2011 to 2014, until a coup. 'State.

The mention of this surname awakens old fractures in Thailand. Thaksin Shinawatra was as much adored in the countryside, thanks to his pioneering redistribution policies, as he was hated by the traditional elites of Bangkok, who found him populist and insolent towards King Bhumibol.

Reds against yellows

Although he has been credited with good management of the economy, the leader, who made his fortune in telecommunications, has often been accused of mixing his private affairs with those of the State.

Tensions peaked during the protest movements between his supporters, “the red shirts”, and his opponents attached to the monarchy, “the yellow shirts”. In 2010, the army opened fire on a Red Shirt demonstration, killing more than 90 people.

Some long-time supporters now criticize their former champion for reaching out to the military to encourage his return to the country after fifteen years of voluntary exile to escape justice.

Indeed, Pheu Thai agreed to form a government coalition with pro-army groups which could not have claimed power following their large defeat in the 2023 elections.

This controversial agreement excluded the winning party from the election, the reformists of Move Forward, who had become the main protest force in the eyes of new generations, in place of the Shinawatra.

Thaksin Shinawatra is also the subject of lese majeste charges for comments made in 2015, but the Thai justice system has not yet decided what action to take in this case.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116