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Thailand’s Thaksin indicted for insulting monarchy
Published on: Tuesday, June 18, 2024
By: AFP
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Thailand’s Thaksin indicted for insulting monarchy
Thaksin Shinawatra is the biggest name among the more than 270 people charged under Thailand’s defamation laws. (AFP pic)
BANGKOK:  Thai prosecutors on Tuesday formally indicted influential former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra under the kingdom’s strict royal insult laws over comments he made nearly a decade ago.

The case against the 74-year-old billionaire, twice elected premier and ousted in a 2006 milsin itary coup, is one of four before the courts that could unleash fresh political instability in the coup-prone kingdom.

Thaksin, the patriarch of the Pheu Thai party that leads the coalition government, is accused of lese-majeste over an interview he gave to South Korean media in 2015.

“Today a state prosecutor indicted Thaksin Shinawatra and the court accepted the case,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Thailand has some of the world’s strictest royal defamation laws protecting King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his close family, with each charge bringing a potential 15-year prison sentence.

Critics say the laws are misused to stifle legitimate political debate, and there has been a spike in their use since youth-led anti-government street protests in 2020 and 2021.

Thaksin is the biggest name among the more than 270 people charged under the laws since the protests, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal group that handles many cases.

Thaksin’s case comes on the same day the Constitutional Court continues deliberating on three other cases that could spark a political crisis.

One seeks the ouster of prime minister Srettha Thavisin under ethics rules, over the appointment of a cabinet minister with a criminal conviction.

In another, the election commission is seeking the dissolution of the main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), which won most seats at last year’s general election but was blocked from forming the government.

The court is not expected to give a judgement in those cases on Tuesday, but is due to rule in a third case on whether the ongoing election for a new senate is lawful.

If the court decides to halt or even cancel the election, the current senators – appointed by the last junta – would continue in their role for the time being.

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