Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Thai oppn angry at royal pardon for Thaksin


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Bangkok: Thailand’s cabinet has reportedly endorsed a controversial royal pardon that could allow the return of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, prompting an angry response from the opposition.

Thai media reports had said a draft decree for an amnesty was approved at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra missed.

Yingluck, who is Thaksin’s younger sister and widely seen as his proxy, has yet to comment, but her deputy who chaired the meeting said it was “secret” as it discussed issues related to the king.

The rumours sparked a torrent of speculation on social media websites and in the Thai press, coming at a politically sensitive time, with Yingluck facing strong criticism for her handling of Thailand’s worst flooding in decades.

The decree, which would need to be approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, would apply to “convicts who are at least 60 years old and are sentenced to under three years in jail”, the Bangkok Post English daily said on Wednesday.

Political novice Yingluck, 44, led the Puea Thai party to election victory in July on the back of her brother’s popularity among Thailand’s rural poor.

She was absent from on Tuesday’s cabinet meeting because she was visiting a flood-stricken province, reports said.

The return of Thaksin, a deeply divisive figure in Thailand, would anger his foes in the Bangkok-based elites in the military, palace and bureaucracy and could spark further turmoil after years of violent protests.

The reported draft pardon was immediately criticised by the opposition Democrats, whose own decree last year excluded corruption convictions.

“It shows that what they have done is intended to help one person,” Democrat deputy party spokesman Sakoltee Phattiyakul told AFP, predicting the move would make for a “tense” political situation in the kingdom.

“Because even though the floods are not yet over, the cabinet still approved the decree.”

Democrat lawmaker Sirichok Sopha added that such a pardon “would be a very sad day for Thailand and the rule of law” and “split the country even more”.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung told reporters at parliament he had chaired on Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, where two topics were discussed.

“But because it was a secret meeting, with no final decisions and matters related to the king’s power, the government cannot speak,” he said.

“The government will not violate any law. I can’t give details,” he added, when asked about the decree. (PTI)


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