PUBLISHED : 12 Feb 2024 at 15:58
A small group of protesters gathered outside the Justice Ministry on Monday opposing the expected release of Thaksin Shinawatra from prison without having spent a day behind bars.
“Thaksin is only a prisoner in name,” Pichit Chaimongkol, leader of the Students and Peoples Network for Thailand Reform, declared – to cheers from other demonstrators and some spectators.
Only a small group of demonstrators were present, some waving the national flag.
However, Mr Pichit predicted their number would grow over time, as more people stood up to show their opposition to the privileged treatment accorded Thaksin. “Do not count us out Thaksin. This issue will definitely be triggered, because many people are thinking the same,” he said.
The rally came amid speculation that Thaksin’s name would be included in the list of prison inmates recommended for royal clemency that the Corrections Department was expected to hand to Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong on Monday.
“The truth is Thaksin was never in jail and he will receive a special pardon,” Mr Pichit said, reading from a letter also calling for equal treatment for all in the justice system. “Officials have conspired on this issue.”
Thaksin has been staying on the 14th floor of a wing of the Police General Hospital, ostensibly for treatment for serious illness. He was transferred there from the prison hospital less than a day after arriving back in Thailand last August after 15 years as a fugitive living overseas. The swift transfer raised doubts whether he would ever spend a day in prison despite his sentencing in absentia on charges of abuse of authority while prime minister.
While there has been no confirmation of his pending release, his daughter Paetongtarn hopes to see him home soon and has prepared the family manor for his home coming.
Justice MInister Tawee was visiting the southern border provinces on Monday. Demonstrators accused him of intentionally avoiding a meeting with them.