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Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra released on parole from police hospital | Thailand

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been paroled and returned home, six months after his arrest in a dramatic return after 15 years in self-imposed exile.

The controversial billionaire, who was twice elected prime minister and ousted in a military coup in 2006, was jailed for eight years on charges of corruption and abuse of power after arriving in Thailand in August.

However, within days of his return, King Maha Vajiralongkorn reduced his sentence to one year, and the government announced last week that the 74-year-old would be eligible for early release on grounds of age and health.

Thaksin, wearing a neck brace and sitting next to his daughters Pethongthaan and Pinthongta, was taken by car early Sunday from the police hospital in central Bangkok, where he had spent the past six months.

Several people gathered in front of the hospital to protest his release.

The car then drove to Thaksin’s home, where a welcoming banner was hung at the gate.

The exact details of his release are unclear, but Thaksin will be subject to monitoring, possibly an ankle tag and his travel rights may be restricted.

A Thaksin Shinawatra supporter in Bangkok looks at a “Welcome Home” banner on the gate of his home. Photo: Lauren Dechka/Getty Images

The former Manchester City owner’s return came on the same day that his Thai Contribution Party returned to power in alliance with pro-military parties, leading many to believe that a backroom deal had been made to reduce his sentence. I concluded that they may have been tied together.

This rumor was further strengthened when he was taken to the police hospital within hours of the verdict due to poor health. At the time of his admission, he was reportedly suffering from chest tightness and high blood pressure, and his family said he underwent two surgeries in the following months.

The government has denied any agreement, and Prime Minister Sureta Thavisin of the Thai Contribution Party has claimed that “Mr Thaksin is already serving his sentence in prison,” although it is unclear how long Mr Thaksin has spent in prison. .

The former telecoms tycoon is one of the most influential and polarizing figures in modern Thai history, endearing himself to millions of rural Thais for his populist policies in the early 2000s. However, it has long been criticized by the country’s royalists and pro-warlords.

The struggle for leadership between the ruling class and Thaksin and his allies has largely defined Thai politics for the past two decades.

Police last week charged him with lese majeste over comments he made in South Korea nearly 10 years ago, but it is unclear whether prosecutors will take the case to court.

His critics suspected he was pulling the strings to the kingdom even from his exile, where he lived mainly in Dubai.

Mr. Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected prime minister in 2011 with her party, but was ousted in a coup of her own in 2014. Mr. Thaksin’s daughter and current leader of the party, Pethunthaan Shinawatra, was one of the key figures in last year’s general election campaign and is seen as a potential candidate for future prime minister.

Last May’s general election marked the first time in more than 20 years that a pro-Thaksin party failed to win the most seats in parliament. The Thai Contribution Party lost to the emerging progressive party, the Forward Party (MFP), and fell to second place.

However, conservative forces in the upper house blocked MFP leader Pita Rimjaloenrat from becoming prime minister, and the new entrants were barred from power by an agreement between the Contribution of Thailand Party and military-linked parties.

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