Thailand’s former PM Thaksin Shinawatra moved to hospital during first night in jail


Thailand’s imprisoned former leader Thaksin Shinawatra was moved to a hospital in the early hours of Wednesday, the day after he returned from exile, due to concerns over his health, police said.

Thaksin, 74, was transferred to hospital at 1am during his first night in prison serving an eight-year sentence, officials said. He was experiencing insomnia, chest tightness, high blood pressure and that the oxygen levels in his fingertips were low, according to a statement from the Department of Corrections.

“Due to a lack of proper medical equipment, the doctor believed that there could be a risk to life. Therefore, they agreed to transfer the patient to the Police Hospital, which is better equipped,” the department said.

Thaksin flew to Bangkok from Singapore on Tuesday morning, after spending more than 15 years in self-imposed exile to avoid legal charges. A hugely influential politician in Thailand, he was ousted in a coup in 2006 and convicted in absentia for corruption, a charge he has said was politically motivated.

Exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra returns to Thailand – video

Thaksin’s arrival back in Thailand coincided with the return of his Pheu Thai party to office, after it struck a controversial deal with his longstanding enemies in military-aligned parties, pushing the most popular reformist party into opposition. There has been widespread speculation that Thaksin has likely struck a political deal that would allow him to avoid the worst of jail.

A statement from the Thai Royal Police said that a prison doctor examined Thaksin and found that he needed an “urgent transfer” to hospital. He was moved at 1am, the statement said.

Thaksin is eligible to apply for a royal pardon during his first day in jail, in accordance with existing rules for convicts. It is possible that medical reasons could be cited as a reason for allowing greater leniency.

Hundreds of Thaksin’s supporters, mainly older voters, travelled to the airport to welcome him on Tuesday. But on social media, many have reacted with anger and cynicism, accusing Thaksin of undermining their votes, and his party’s purported values, for his own benefit, in the wake of the political deal that was struck.

A general election in May marked a resounding rejection of Thailand’s generals, who seized power in a coup in 2014, ousting prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister. For two decades, Thaksin has been locked in a power struggle with the military-royalist establishment, and he was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Pheu Thai say they had no choice but to form an alliance with military parties, because Thailand’s electoral rules, rewritten after the 2014 coup, make it near impossible to form a government without backing from the military-royalists.

Pheu Thai party’s Srettha Thavisin, a real estate tycoon, was confirmed as prime minister on Wednesday morning, having received royal endorsement.

On Twitter, “NotMyPM” trended, as people rejected Srettha, and instead voiced support for Pita Limajaroenrat, leader of the pro-reform Move Forward party, which won the most seats and votes in May’s election after promising to stop the military from interfering in politics and to amend the lese majesty law.