Thai Ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra Charged with Royal Defamation

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Thailand's influential former prime minister, who recently returned to the country after a period of exile, faced charges stemming from an interview he gave in 2015. Despite being jailed on separate charges, he was later granted a royal pardon.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was formally indicted on Tuesday for allegedly insulting Thailand's monarchy, as announced by prosecutors during a news conference. Thaksin voluntarily reported to prosecutors before 9 a.m. local time (0200 GMT), and the indictment process was subsequently completed, according to Prayuth Bejraguna, a spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General.

This development is part of a series of high-profile political and legal cases currently unfolding in Thailand, underscoring the judiciary's significant impact on politicians and political parties in 2024. Thaksin, aged 74, served as prime minister from February 2001 to September 2006.

Despite being ousted from power 18 years ago, Thaksin continues to wield influence in Thai politics, as does the Pheu Thai Party, which remains associated with him. Following a period of self-imposed exile, Thaksin returned last year and began serving an over eight-year jail sentence on corruption and abuse of power charges. He was subsequently granted a royal pardon and released on parole in February this year.

The alleged comments that led to the indictment were made during a 2015 interview in South Korea, shortly before the death of Thailand's previous King Bhumibol Abdulyadej and the ascension of his son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, to the throne.

Thailand is one of the few countries that still criminalizes perceived insults or defamation of royalty, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years.

In addition to Thaksin's case, Thailand's Constitutional Court is currently considering a case filed by a group of senators that could potentially result in the dismissal of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is accused of breaching the law by appointing a lawyer with a criminal conviction to his Cabinet.

Simultaneously, the Constitutional Court is deliberating on a case seeking to dissolve the popular opposition Move Forward Party for advocating amendments to the country's lese majeste law on royal insult, following a complaint from the national election commission.

Furthermore, the court is expected to issue a ruling on the legality of the ongoing selection of members for the upper house of parliament, which commenced this month and is scheduled to conclude in July.

Investor sentiment has responded adversely to these developments, with Thailand's main stock index dropping to its lowest level since November 2020 during Monday's trading session.