, BANGKOK, Dec 4 – An annual royal pardon granted to thousands of convicts to mark the revered Thai king’s birthday this week will not include fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the prisons chief said Sunday.
Media reports emerged last month saying the cabinet had endorsed a draft pardon that could allow Thaksin to return without serving time, prompting anger from his rivals, but the government later appeared to back off from such a move.
While around 22,000 prisoners will benefit from the pardon which comes into effect on Sunday, a day ahead of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 84th birthday, Thaksin will not, corrections department chief Suchart Wongananchai told AFP.
“He (Thaksin) will not qualify,” he said.
As in previous years, the royal pardon will only apply to people who have spent time in prison, Suchart added.
Thaksin, who remains a hugely divisive figure, was deposed by the army in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile overseas to avoid a two-year prison term on a corruption conviction that he contends is politically motivated.
His sister Yingluck is now premier after a resounding election victory by his party earlier this year, in the wake of mass opposition protests in 2010 by Thaksin’s “Red Shirt” supporters which ended with a bloody army crackdown.
Yingluck’s government said Friday that Thailand would issue a passport for Thaksin “very soon”, stoking the tensions with his opponents.
He was stripped of his passport by the previous government but received citizenship from Montenegro last year, allowing him to travel internationally.
News of his new passport comes at a delicate time for Yingluck as the 44-year-old leader, who was a political novice before taking office in August, deals with the aftermath of the kingdom’s worst floods in decades.
Yingluck has not yet taken any legal action clearing the path for her brother’s return, and analysts have warned it would be risky for her to do so during the flood crisis, although the waters are now receding in many areas.