Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is stressed and exhausted, but he is in good spirits, his daughter said Tuesday, as criticism mounted over his transfer to a hospital just hours after he began serving an eight-year prison sentence.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, returned to Thailand last week after 15 years in self-imposed exile and was immediately sent to prison over several criminal convictions he denounced as politically motivated.
Prison officials said Thaksin, 74, was considered vulnerable because of his age, chronic heart and lung conditions, high blood pressure and back problems. Thaksin, a former police lieutenant colonel, is being treated in the private suite of the Police General Hospital, and the director said he was in serious condition with heart and lung problems.
There has been growing criticism that Thaksin was given special treatment compared to other inmates, including not having to get a prison-style haircut. His quick transfer to the hospital has prompted demands for proof that he is actually sick. A group of conservative activists went to the hospital last week demanding that it provide information about his condition and treatment.
“My father is happy to see me, very happy. He is stressed and tired but he is in good spirits,” Paetongtarn Shinawatra told reporters at the headquarters of the populist Pheu Thai party, of which he is a key member.
Pheu Thai is the latest in a string of parties affiliated with Thaksin that were founded after he was ousted from power and his party dissolved.
After visiting his father in the hospital, Paetongtarn said that his father had suffered from complications after contracting the coronavirus in 2020 and he was most worried about his father’s heart condition.
Former prime minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra accompanied by his son, A Panthongtae Shinawatra and his two daughters, Paetongtarn Shinawatra and Pintongtha Kunakornwong, arrives at Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok, Thailand, August 22, 2023. (Photo: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
Hours after Thaksin’s return to Thailand, Pheu Thai candidate Srettha Thavisin won enough votes in Parliament to become prime minister, ending more than three months of political uncertainty following national elections.
To achieve a majority, the party formed a coalition with promilitary parties linked to the coup that ousted the Pheu Thai government led by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, from power in 2014.
It also excludes the progressive Moving Forward Party, which won the most votes in the election, from the coalition.
Many believe the divisive former leader returned hoping friendly governments will reduce his sentence, and that he may have struck a deal with the authorities, although Thaksin says his decision has nothing to do with the Pheu Thai party’s bid to win elections. The government that is ending his term in office has said Thaksin can seek a royal pardon like any other prisoner.
Paetongtarn says his father will decide when to ask for forgiveness.
Asked about the controversy over his hospitalization, Paetongtarn simply replied that he was worried his father was sick. He said the duration of his hospitalization depended on the medical staff.
Thaksin’s return from exile was an emotional moment for the billionaire’s supporters. Thaksin won the sympathy of millions of people with his populist policies of directing attention and funding to the largely rural and impoverished north before he was ousted in a military coup.
His reappearance has reminded Thais of years of bitter conflict – both figuratively and literally – between supporters of the “red shirts” and opponents, the “yellow shirts”, who championed conservative, pro-kingdom values. (ab/uh)