Thai Ex-PM Thaksin Visits Hometown for 1st Time Since Ouster

Bangkok — Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived by private jet on Thursday to visit his northern hometown of Chiang Mai for the first time since fleeing the country after a military coup in 2006.

The influential billionaire has loomed large over Thai politics for two decades, during which his family backed Pheu Thai party has won nearly every general election and is now in power.

In August he made a dramatic return from 15 years of self-imposed exile to dodge jail for alleged abuse of power.

After just six months in a prison hospital, Thaksin received parole in February despite not having spent a single night in jail for a sentence commuted by the king to one year from eight.

Thaksin, wearing a mask and a neck brace, was flanked by his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao and dozens of officials on his arrival for a three-day visit, but he did not speak to media.

“Missed you,” one supporter told the former premier on his first stop at a park, where he met a crowd of dozens with his palms joined together in a traditional gesture of greeting, before she took a selfie picture with him.

“Prime Minister of our hearts,” read the caption under a picture of Thaksin emblazoned on the jacket of another.

At the time of his release from prison, an official had described him as being “truly ill”, needing a wheelchair and wearing his arm in a sling.

Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong said Thaksin had sought permission for the visit to seek alternative medical advice and pay respects to his ancestors.

Critics have complained about Thaksin’s lenient treatment. Thaksin’s return last year coincided to the day with his ally and political newcomer Srettha Thavisin being chosen as prime minister, leading many to suspect a deal between Thaksin and his powerful enemies in the royalist-military establishment.

Thaksin and the government have dismissed the speculation.

leave a reply: