Thai ex-PM Thaksin Says Ready to Face Royal Insult Charges

BANGKOK – Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced on June 8 that he is prepared to confront charges of insulting the monarchy, a significant challenge for the political heavyweight whose allies currently govern the country.

The complaint, brought forth by the royalist military that deposed his sister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration, originates from an interview the influential tycoon gave to foreign media in 2015. Additionally, he faces charges of violating a computer crime law.

Thaksin stated he would meet with prosecutors on June 18 but expressed confidence in his defense, saying, “It’s nothing. The case is baseless.”

At 74, Thaksin denies any wrongdoing and has consistently pledged loyalty to the crown. Thailand’s controversial lese-majeste law, one of the strictest globally, forbids criticism of the monarchy and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment for each perceived insult.

Thaksin’s case is the highest-profile among over 270 prosecutions in recent years under this law. He founded the populist Pheu Thai party, with his family’s parties winning all but one election since 2001. However, three Shinawatra governments have been overthrown by coups or court rulings.

After 15 years of self-imposed exile, Thaksin returned to Thailand in 2023, continuing to play a central role amid ongoing political upheaval. He was convicted of abuse of power and conflicts of interest, receiving an eight-year prison sentence, later commuted to one year by the king. Thaksin was released on parole in February after just six months in detention.

Currently, Pheu Thai leads the government, with Thaksin’s business ally Srettha Thavisin serving as prime minister and his daughter, Ms. Paetongtarn Shinawatra, as the party’s chief.