Thaksin Shinawatra leaves Police General Hospital on parole, avoids prison stay since August 2023

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Insert picture: Thaksin. Background picture: Police General Hospital.

18th February 2024 – (Bangkok) Thaksin Shinawatra, the country’s former Prime Minister, was released on parole early Sunday morning, according to reports from various media outlets. The erstwhile leader was observed departing the Police General Hospital in Bangkok, signalling the end of his incarceration which followed a contentious return to Thailand after years in self-imposed exile.

Upon his release, Thaksin (right) was accompanied by his daughter Paetongtarn (left).

Thaksin, 74 years old, had been residing in the hospital since his return to Thailand last year on 22nd August. The release has attracted widespread attention, with banners bearing messages like “Welcome Home” reportedly hoisted outside his residence in the western part of Bangkok.

This move comes on the heels of an announcement by Thailand’s  Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong, who earlier this week stated that the Corrections Department had recommended a total of 945 individuals for parole. Out of those, 930 were deemed eligible, including Thaksin. According to the Corrections Act, a prisoner must have served at least half a year or one-third of their sentence, with the remaining sentence not exceeding ten years, to be considered for release on parole.

The decision to release Thaksin was not unanticipated, as his daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, had previously hinted at the possibility of his release as soon as Sunday. Thaksin’s release was part of a broader parole initiative reviewed and approved by the Justice Ministry’s parole committee.

Upon his release, Thaksin was accompanied by his daughter Paetongtarn, among others, and was seen wearing a casual printed shirt and a mask, with what appeared to be a soft neck brace. He left the facility in a black van, which was an understated departure for a figure who has often been at the centre of Thai politics.

Thaksin’s political journey has been marred with controversy. During his tenure as Prime Minister from 2001 until his ousting by a military coup in 2006, Thaksin implemented numerous policies that have had a lasting impact on Thai society and economy. However, his time in office was also dogged by accusations of corruption and authoritarianism.

His return to Thailand last year after 15 years of self-exile was a shock to the nation. Upon arrival, he was immediately taken into custody and appeared before the court, where he was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to eight years in prison. His initial night in detention was spent in hospital rather than prison, and he has remained there ever since, having never spent a full day in prison due to a series of health concerns and a royal pardon that reduced his sentence.