| 22 June 2024, Saturday |

Thailand’s billionaire ex-PM Thaksin moved to hospital on first night in jail

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s billionaire former leader, was hospitalized on his first night in prison following his historic return from self-exile, officials said on Wednesday, citing concerns about his heart and blood pressure.

The prominent founder of Thailand’s populist Pheu Thai Party was transported to a police hospital overnight, 15 hours after his heralded homecoming from 15 years overseas to avoid jail, which coincided with a legislative vote in which his political friend was chosen prime minister.

The Corrections Department said the 74-year-old Thaksin was transferred in the early hours of Wednesday after being unable to sleep and experiencing chest tightness and high blood pressure on his first night in prison.

“Physicians agreed that to prevent dangerous risks to his life, he be transferred to the police hospital,” it said.

Soponrat Singhajaru, a senior doctor, confirmed his condition had improved since he was admitted. A representative for Thaksin declined to comment.

Thaskin, a hugely popular prime minister among many voters for pro-poor policies, was ousted in a 2006 military coup and was in self-exile two years later when he was sentenced to jail for graft and abuse of power.

His hospitalisation is the latest twist in chaotic few months in Thai politics that saw the progressive Move Forward party triumph in a May election then end up in opposition, and the populist heavyweight Pheu Thai, twice toppled by the military, agree to form a government with army-backed parties.

Thaksin returned on a private jet to cheering crowds on Tuesday before being whisked away to a court then to a jail, in dramatic scenes that stole the spotlight from fellow tycoon Srettha Thavisin, who was chosen as prime minister hours later


The unimpeded return of Thailand’s most divisive politician and Srettha’s surprisingly smooth ascent to the top job will add to speculation that Thaksin had struck a deal with longtime enemies in the military and conservative establishment for his safe return and, possibly, an early release from jail.

Thaksin and Pheu Thai have denied that.

Srettha, a U.S.-educated property mogul, has been endorsed as premier by the king and is expected to form an 11-party coalition in days ahead. Election winner Move Forward declined to back Srettha, calling his alliance with unpopular pro-military parties a betrayal of the will of the people.

News of Thaksin’s struggle on his first night in prison drew mixed reactions on social media, ranging from concern to ridicule.

Some social media posts poked fun at his special treatment, with #VVIP a top-trending hashtag on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Some posters said they suspected he was in a ward on a high-floor of the hospital, one with a view of an exclusive sports club and golf course.

The hospital said there was no special treatment and it admitted prisoners regularly.

Some television news showed looped videos of Thaksin exercising on the grounds of his Dubai mansion late last year, pounding energetically at a punchbag while attempting an occasional high kick.

“I have no problem with Thaksin being treated, but I demand the same treatment for tens of thousands of inmates with high blood pressure,” Amornrat Chokpamitkul, a member of the Move Forward Party, said on X, a comment reposted 4,000 times.

  • Reuters