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Ex-Thai PM Thaksin must still serve jail term if he returns home, says justice minister

Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is also the deputy prime minister, says Thaksin Shinawatra will need to be in judicial custody before he can apply for bail during the appeal process.

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Exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Photo: AFP
Exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been in self-exile, must still serve his jail sentence if he returns home, warns Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

He said Thaksin would likely encounter three different kinds of legal scenarios, including serving time in instances where the court had found him guilty, waiting for the outcome of cases that were still ongoing, and those in which the court had found him not guilty.

Wissanu denied that Thaksin would be placed under house arrest.

Thaksin would need to be in judicial custody before he can apply for bail during the appeal process, like other convicts, he said in response to Thaksin’s statement that he would return home in July.

"Inmates must be sent to detention facilities and house arrest is not a permissible alternative," he said.

When asked about the possibility of Thaksin a seeking royal pardon, Wissanu said prisoners must serve at least eight years or one third of their jail term.

On May 9, in a tweet via @ThaksinLive, Thaksin said: "I am seeking permission again. I have decided to return home to take care of my grandchildren in July, before my birthday.

"It has been 17 years since I have been separated from my family. I am already old."

His tweet comes days before Thailand’s general election on Sunday where his party Pheu Thai Party is expected to win. 

His youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, is one of the party’s three prime ministerial candidates and the frontrunner to take the post from incumbent Prayuth Chan o-cha.

In a separate tweet, he said his return would not be a burden for the Pheu Thai Party.

"I will enter the legal process upon my return where the country is led by Prayuth’s caretaker government.

"It is my own decision for the love and bond I have for my family and homeland," he said.

Thaksin, who served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, has been living in exile since 2008, spending most of his time in Dubai, after his government was ousted by a military coup led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

He left Thailand in August 2008 to avoid facing time in prison. The Supreme Court sentenced him in absentia to two years in jail for abuse of power.

Thaksin recently said he intended to return to Thailand even if it meant serving time in jail. He said he did not want the government to push for amnesty.

He had first tweeted his intention to return home to Thailand to look after his grandchild on May 1, after Paetongtarn, 36, gave birth to her second child.

Experts said Thaksin's pledge to return home was seen as a political move aimed at rallying support for the Pheu Thai Party.

When asked to comment on Thaksin’s latest tweet to return to Thailand, Prayuth said: "It’s up to him and the justice system."

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