Thailand’s former, and self-exiled, prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra is set to return to Thailand on Thursday August 10. The news has been passed on by youngest daughter, new mother and PM candidate for the Pheu Thai Party, Paetongtarn Shinawatra.
“Dad is returning on 10 August at Don Muang Airport. This decision to come home is something that dad has seriously spoken about since the beginning of 2022.”
The divisive former PM is now 74 and served as Thailand’s prime minister from 9 February 2001 – 19 September 2006. He was then tossed out of office by a military coup after being re-elected in 2004. Thaksin fled Thailand to avoid a jail sentence for graft in 2008. He has been basing most of his exile in Dubai and London.
In theory, the fugitive former PM would be taken directly to prison to face a sentence imposed on him whilst outside of the country. Given the charges imposed on him by a military court in his absence he would be escorted from the airport and placed in custody.
Or will he get a Royal Pardon before he arrives? Historically Thaksin and the former Crown Prince, now the King of Thailand, were quite good ‘friends’.
Thaksin’s return to Thailand, at this time when there is a political vacuum with festering tensions over the May 14 election, could develop into a major issue for the current caretaker coalition. Thaksin spawned, the Pheu Thai Party (called Thai Rak Thai during his time), which is currently in heated negotiations to form a new government, most probably without the more popular Move Forward Party.
Thaksin’s return to Thailand would be extremely symbolic, jailed or not, and will accelerate any current squabbles into a potential political crisis. He’ll be either a martyr or a hero for the anti-Junta/anti-military side of politics.
You can expect that his return will become a trending and divisive topic in Thai social media.