Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Faces 2016 Charge of Lese Majeste

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is still facing a lese majeste charge from 2016, with the decision on his indictment pending from the attorney-general, according to a statement from the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) spokesman on Tuesday.

The OAG spokesperson, Prayut Phetcharakhun, announced that the case was forwarded to the OAG by the police of the Technology Crime Suppression Division on February 16, 2016, accusing Thaksin of insulting the monarchy with remarks made in Seoul, South Korea, on May 21, 2015.

Prayut disclosed that on September 19, 2016, the attorney-general at the time, Pongniwat Yuthapanboripan, approved the decision to indict Thaksin. Being a fugitive at that time, the then attorney-general instructed the police to obtain an arrest warrant from the Criminal Court, which was subsequently issued.

After Thaksin’s return to Thailand on August 22, 2023, the police submitted the arrest warrant to the Department of Corrections, requesting his detention should the former prime minister be released.

On January 17 of this year, Thaksin was formally notified by the public prosecutors and police about the charges of lese majeste and computer crime, to which he pleaded not guilty and sought a fair hearing through a written petition. The decision on his indictment is still pending from the current attorney-general.

Nakhen Thongpraiwan, the deputy spokesman for the OAG, stated that the Department of Corrections had not yet replied to the detention request, which, by law, requires a response seven days prior to any release.

Should Thaksin’s detention be extended, it will be up to the police investigators to consider if he qualifies for temporary release during the inquiry, as mentioned by Mr. Nakhen. Thaksin has yet to be interrogated for this case.

Corrections Director-General Sahakarn Phetnarin mentioned on Tuesday that Thaksin is eligible for parole based on age, health, and having served a portion of his sentence. The Corrections Department has prepared a list of inmates eligible for parole for the consideration of the parole committee and the justice minister.

In an interview with Chosun Ilbo in Seoul in May 2015, Thaksin suggested that privy councillors supported the May 22, 2014 coup that deposed the government led by his sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The interview, widely circulated on Thai social media, led police to suspect that the comments might violate the lese majeste and computer crime laws. The lese majeste law stipulates a penalty of 3-15 years in prison for each offense.

After a 15-year self-imposed exile, Thaksin returned to Thailand on August 22, 2023. The Supreme Court had sentenced him to eight years in prison on finalized charges, which was later reduced to one year by royal pardon.

Upon his arrival at Bangkok Remand Prison, the corrections medical team determined that Thaksin should be moved to the Police General Hospital due to severe health issues.