An annual royal pardon granted to thousands of convicts to mark the Thai king’s birthday this week will not include fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the prisons chief said yesterday.
Media reports emerged last month saying the Cabinet had endorsed a draft pardon that could allow Thaksin to return without serving time in jail, prompting anger from his rivals, but the government later appeared to back off from such a move.
While about 22,000 prisoners would benefit from the pardon that came into effect yesterday, a day ahead of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 84th birthday, Thaksin would not, Thai Department of Corrections Director-General Suchart Wongananchai said.
“He [Thaksin] will not qualify,” he said.
As in previous years, the royal pardon would apply only to people who have spent time in prison, Suchart added.
Thaksin, who remains a hugely divisive figure, was deposed by the army in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile overseas to avoid a two-year prison term on a corruption conviction that he contends is politically motivated.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, his sister, won a resounding election victory as head of his party earlier this year, in the wake of mass opposition protests last year by Thaksin’s “Red Shirt” supporters, which ended with a bloody army crackdown.
Yingluck’s government said on Friday that Thailand would issue a passport for Thaksin “very soon,” stoking tensions with his opponents.
He was stripped of his passport by the previous government, but received citizenship from Montenegro last year, allowing him to travel internationally.
News of his new passport comes at a delicate time for Yingluck as the 44-year-old leader, who was a political novice before taking office in August, deals with the aftermath of the kingdom’s worst floods in decades.
Yingluck has not yet taken any legal action clearing the path for her brother’s return and analysts have warned it would be risky for her to do so during the flood crisis, although the waters are now receding in many areas.