Former Thai PM to be indicted over royal insult – media

Thaksin Shinawatra denies any wrongdoing and has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to the crown

Thai prosecutors said on Wednesday that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is to be indicted for defaming the monarchy, three months after he was freed on parole for a conviction on other charges.

Thaksin, who denies the charge, was ousted in 2006 in a military coup. His opponents would later accuse him of disrespecting King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016.

The complaint lodged against the former PM reportedly stemmed from an interview he gave to foreign media in 2015. Prosecutors allege that, while in exile, Thaksin had told South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo that privy councilors, who serve Thailand’s king, had in 2014 ordered the country’s armed forces to oust the government of Thaksin’s sister, then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

A former two-time prime minister, Thaksin returned to Thailand from a 15-year self-imposed exile after a general election last year that ultimately saw the Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai Party rise to power after nearly a decade of military-backed rule.

According to media reports, Thailand’s attorney general announced the charges on Wednesday, reportedly after months of consideration. However, the reading of the charges has been postponed until June 18, as the 74-year-old told the court that he is ill with Covid-19.

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Since returning from exile to Thailand last August, Thaksin began serving an eight-year sentence on charges related to corruption and abuse of power. He was released on parole in February from the hospital in Bangkok where he’d spent six months. The parole was granted because of his age and ill health, leaving him free for the remainder of his sentence.

Thai laws against royal defamation, or lese-majesté, are extremely strict: Article 112 of the criminal code could see anyone found guilty of insulting the royalty face 15 years behind bars for each count.

Thaksin denies the charges and has repeatedly pledged loyalty to the crown. He had also submitted a statement defending himself.

Other charges against Thaksin include violating a computer-crime law.

The former premier’s lawyer told Associated Press that the video of Thaksin’s interview that investigators used as evidence might have been manipulated.

According to Bloomberg, the charges against the former PM could be viewed as “attempts by Thailand’s conservative establishment to reassert its hold over the nation’s politics,” which have become dominated by Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party.

The Shinawatra family’s political parties have won all but one election since 2001, with three Shinawatra governments toppled by coups or court rulings. Pheu Thai leads the current government, with Thaksin’s business ally Srettha Thavisin serving as prime minister and his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra as party chief.

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