Thaksin Shinawatra Returns to Thailand After 15 Years in Exile – Faces 8 Years in Prison

Return of Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, after more than a decade in self-imposed exile, finally set foot on his country’s land for the first time since 2008. This significant return happened on Tuesday, just hours before a crucial vote in parliament that would determine his party’s candidate for prime minister in an attempt to form a new government.

Verdict and Prison Sentence

The former prime minister, now 74 years old, faced the Supreme Court upon his arrival. The court revealed in a statement that Thaksin would spend a total of 8 years in prison. This prison sentence is the outcome of three different cases related to various abuses of power during his tenure as prime minister. These cases involve irregularities and issuance of illegal orders to a state-run bank regarding an external loan, as well as illegal possession of shares by using figureheads as cover-ups.

The verdict was swiftly issued shortly after the billionaire’s arrival at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, where he was warmly welcomed by a group of loyal supporters singing and waving flags.

Emotional Airport Scene

Thaksin took a moment to emerge from the airport terminal, bow, and lay a wreath in front of an image of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. He then saluted his passionate supporters, demonstrating his gratitude for their unwavering devotion. Thaksin, a billionaire and the most prominent figure of the populist Puea Thai (For Thais) party, had fled abroad 15 years ago to evade sentencing. This occurred two years after the army ousted him in a 2006 coup, accusing him of corruption and disloyalty to the powerful monarchy – charges Thaksin vehemently denied.

Thaksin’s daughter, Paytungtarn Shinawatra, took to social media to confirm her father’s safe return, sharing photos on Facebook of a smiling Thaksin reunited with his family. Her post also stated, “My father returned to Thailand and started the legal process.”

Political Implications

The highly anticipated arrival of Thailand’s most famous politician coincided with a crucial gathering of the military-appointed lower house and upper house. This gathering was held prior to a vote scheduled later that Tuesday on the prime ministerial candidate, Srita Thavisin. Srita Thavisin, a real estate mogul, was propelled into politics by the Puea Thai Party just a few months ago.

Thailand has been under the rule of a caretaker government since last March, and the country’s new parliament has been paralyzed for weeks due to conservative lawmakers blocking the “Forward” party’s attempts to form a government. The “Forward” party had emerged victorious in the May elections but faced challenges in relinquishing their duties to Puea Tai.

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