11 July 2024

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has recovered from Covid, he told AFP on Wednesday, as he prepares to face trial on charges of insulting the monarchy.

The 74-year-old two-time premier ousted in a 2006 coup is expected in court on June 18 for prosecution under the kingdom’s strict lese-majeste laws.

Prosecutors announced the charges last week but were unable to summon Thaksin because he was sick with Covid.

“I am recovered,” Thaksin told AFP after a visit to a salon in central Bangkok.

The encounter with AFP journalists in the Thai capital put paid to rumours circulating in Thailand that Thaksin had left the country.

He declined to comment on his upcoming case, which relates to comments he made in 2015 to South Korean media. 

“I’d rather not say anything now,” he said.

Billionaire tycoon Thaksin spent 15 years in self-imposed exile before returning to the kingdom last August and immediately being jailed on historic graft and abuse-of-power charges.

The timing of his return — on the day his Pheu Thai party came to power in coalition with pro-military parties — led many to conclude a deal had been done to cut his jail time. 

The rumours grew when the king soon cut Thaksins sentence from eight years to one, and he was freed on parole in February.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, of Pheu Thai, said on Tuesday he did not believe talk of Thaksin quitting the country again.

“I believe he is ready to fight. He had been abroad for a long time so I think he has already entered the judicial system,” Srettha told reporters.

Thaksin insists he has retired, but he has made numerous public appearances since his release and still casts a long shadow over the kingdom’s politics.

by Agence France-Presse