Former Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra will be accused of defaming the monarchy

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai prosecutors said the previous Wednesday Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra He will be charged with defamation of the monarchy, three months after being released on parole on other charges.

Thaksin will not yet be charged because he submitted a request to postpone his original appointment on Wednesday with evidence of his Covid-19 infection, Prayut Bejrajona, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said at a news conference.

The Attorney General’s Office has set a new date for Thaksin’s indictment on June 18, Prayut said, adding that Thaksin will also be charged with violating the Computer Crimes Act.

The defamation of property law, a crime known as lese majeste, is punishable by imprisonment for a period ranging from three to 15 years. It is controversial not only because critics consider it cruel, but also because they accuse it of being used for political purposes to punish government critics.

Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006. His opponents then accused him of disrespecting King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016. Thaksin’s ouster sparked years of conflict between his supporters and opponents, who were generally loyal supporters of the monarchy. Political polarization led to an unprecedented public debate about the role of the monarchy, which worsened when student-led protests for greater democracy took to the streets in 2020.

Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile since 2008, however He returned to Thailand In August last year, he will begin serving an eight-year prison sentence on charges of corruption and abuse of power. He was released on conditions In February from the hospital in Bangkok where he had spent six months serving a prison sentence on corruption charges.

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Upon his return, he was almost immediately transferred from prison to hospital due to ill health, and about a week later King Maha Vajiralongkorn reduced his sentence to one year. Thaksin was granted parole due to his age – 74 – and ill health, leaving him free for the remainder of his one-year sentence.

Thaksin’s return has been interpreted as part of a political deal between the Pheu Thai Party, the latest in a series of parties he has supported, and their long-time rivals in the conservative establishment to prevent the Forward Party from forming a government after its victory. In last year’s general elections.

But shortly after his return, the prosecutor’s office said it had revived the investigation into whether Thaksin had nearly nine years earlier violated the anti-defamation law.

Thaksin was originally charged in 2016 with violating the law over comments he made to reporters while in Seoul, South Korea, a year earlier, but the investigation could only continue after the charge was brought against him in person at a hospital in January. Officials said. Thaksin denied these accusations and submitted a statement defending himself.

Attorney General Prayut’s spokesman said there was enough evidence for the prosecutor to charge Thaksin. He said that the prosecution has already prepared its statement and documents to submit to the court next month.

Thaksin’s lawyer, Wenyat Chatmontree, said he was confident he had a strong defense for his client.

“We have been working on this for several months, since we submitted the defense statement,” he told the Associated Press. “But whether we win the case or not is up to the discretion of the court based on the evidence.”

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Winyatt also suggested that the video containing Thaksin’s comments that investigators used as evidence may have been doctored.

Since his release, Thaksin maintained a high profile He is believed to have influence in the government led by Prime Minister Sritha Thavisin. He has traveled to the country to make public appearances and was reportedly involved in an attempt to mediate peace talks in neighboring war-torn Myanmar.

One analyst believes Thaksin’s growing influence has angered ultraconservatives and the indictment is their response.

“It’s designed to keep Thaksin under control. This keeps him on a leash. If he doesn’t behave this charge could be activated and could lead to him being imprisoned. This is to limit his movement and maneuvers, remind him and send him a signal in some way, so he knows Who is responsible and should know that he should not exceed the limits.

The lese majeste law was highlighted again earlier this month when 28-year-old Netiporn activist “Bung” Sanesangkhom died in a prison hospital after going on a hunger strike. She was imprisoned on charges of lese majeste.

The death has sparked new calls for a review of the judicial process that allows political offenders accused of non-violent crimes to be denied bail and held for long periods in prison before trial. Niteporn had been accused of conducting polls in public in 2022 asking people’s opinions about the royal family.

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