July 28, 2023
BANGKOK – Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra can apply for a royal pardon soon after he starts serving his jail term on his return to Thailand, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreangam said on Thursday.
When asked how many days Thaksin has to wait before applying for a royal pardon, Wissanu said: “That can be done within [the first] 24 hours. But I don’t know if he will do it. I can’t answer this for him.”
According to Wissanu, who is also serving as the caretaker justice minister, the process calls for convicts to submit their written appeal to His Majesty the King for a royal pardon. “But they have to wait for two more years to submit a new appeal if they are not granted a pardon [in their first attempt],” he said.
Wissanu, who is in charge of the government’s legal matters, explained that it is the right of every convict to seek a royal pardon.
Thaksin, who is regarded as the patriarch of the Pheu Thai Party, is expected to return to Thailand soon to serve his jail term for criminal cases stemming from his time in office.
His daughter Paetongtarn, who is one of Pheu Thai’s three prime ministerial candidates, said on Wednesday that Thaksin would return to Thailand on August 10. This was the latest in a series of announcements made by Thaksin and his family about his possible “return home”. Earlier, Thaksin had said he would come back before his birthday on July 26.
Thaksin, 74, has been in exile overseas since August 2008. In October of the same year, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division on Political Office Holders sentenced him in absentia to two years in jail for abusing his power in connection with his wife’s purchase of a state-held land plot at a price much lower than the market value.
Thaksin faces a total of 10 years’ imprisonment in three separate corruption cases stemming from his tenure as prime minister from February 2001 to September 2006. However, the 10-year statute of limitations in one case expired in 2018.
Wissanu said on Thursday that as a convict who is over 70 years old with a history of health issues, Thaksin would be eligible for certain benefits that do not apply to others serving time in prison.
He said the Department of Corrections would make decisions on such matters as a special detention cell or a duty at the prison hospital. “But he cannot be on house arrest. He has to serve his time in prison,” Wissanu added.
He also said that Thaksin’s family can visit him at prison on the first day of his imprisonment.