Thailand Ex-Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was swiftly transferred from prison to a hospital early Wednesday. Mere hours after he made a high-profile return to the country from a 15-year exile to serve an 8-year prison sentence. His return coincided with the parliamentary victory of a party linked to him, which secured the mandate to form a new government.
Thaksin had returned to Thailand amid considerable anticipation, especially as the political landscape in the country appeared to shift. However, his homecoming was marred by immediate health concerns. According to a statement from Sitthi Sutivong, deputy director-general of the Corrections Department. Thaksin was reported to have high blood pressure and low oxygen levels and complained of insomnia and chest tightness. Subsequently, doctors at the prison’s hospital recommended his transfer to prevent potentially life-threatening complications. Corrections officials had previously highlighted Thaksin’s vulnerability due to his age and a range of chronic health issues. Including heart and lung conditions, high blood pressure, and back problems.
The return of Thaksin Shinawatra set the stage for significant political development. The Pheu Thai party, affiliated with him, secured enough votes to install Srettha Thavisin as the new prime minister. This outcome marked the conclusion of over three months of political uncertainty, legal disputes, and negotiations following the elections in May. The Pheu Thai party formed a coalition with military-backed parties. That was a notable exclusion of the progressive Move Forward Party. Despite it winning the majority of votes in the elections.
Srettha Thavisin is expected to receive the royal endorsement as prime minister later today, according to reports from Thai media.
Thaksin Shinawatra’s return to the political arena adds another layer to Thailand‘s complex political history. His ousting in a 2006 military coup initiated nearly two decades of deep-seated political divisions in the country. Moreover, with staunch support from the rural majority in the north pitted against royalists, the military establishment, and their urban supporters.
There is widespread speculation that Thaksin’s return was motivated by the hope of a more favourable government that might consider reducing his sentence. However, Thaksin has publicly stated that his decision to return was not linked to the Pheu Thai party’s bid for power. That he is prepared to follow the legal process. The outgoing government has indicated that Thaksin has the option to request a royal pardon. A process is available to any inmate.
Thailand now stands at a crucial crossroads, with the return of Thaksin Shinawatra and the potential for a new government. While the nation grapples with enduring political divisions and a complex power struggle.