Monday, March 8, 2021

Thai king releases thousands of prisoners for father’s birthday

200,000 more will have their sentences reduced by royal decree.

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At least 30,000 prisoners in Thailand have been pardoned, and 200,000 others will have their sentences reduced following a royal decree issued on the eve of the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Royal Gazette announced on Friday that King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued the pardons and amnesties nationwide to mark his father’s birthday on Saturday.

According to the Bangkok Post, television newscaster Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda, red-shirt protest leader Nattawut Saikuar and former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom are among those whose sentences will be cut.

Sorrayuth was sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this year, over failure to disclose excess income from TV commercials during his news programme in the early 2000s.

Nattawut was jailed for supporting former prime ministers Thaksin and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. However, he could soon return to jail due to other charges against him.

Boonsong, a former commerce minister, got 48 years for his involvement in a rice trading scandal during Yingluck’s term in office.

Since ascending the throne, Maha has faced an unprecedented challenge to his rule, with hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for reform of the monarchy and for him to give up control of the royal billions he has taken personal control of.

Following ongoing protests calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, police recently summoned activist leaders to face charges of insulting the monarchy.

This was the first time such charges have been brought in more than two years – a move seen as a strong warning to protesters.

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