Thailand attorney general indicts former prime minister for alleged royal insult News
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Thailand attorney general indicts former prime minister for alleged royal insult

Thailand’s attorney general decided on Wednesday to indict former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for allegedly insulting the monarchy in an interview he conducted in 2015 with a foreign media outlet, the attorney general’s spokesman told reporters in a press conference.

The case against Thaksin Shinawatra started in 2015 when Deputy Defence Minister Gen Udomdej Sitabutr issued a complaint over the former prime minister’s defamatory comments against the monarchy in an interview for a South Korean newspaper. Subsequently, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed a lawsuit to the criminal court against the former Thai prime minister for violating Article 112 of the criminal code, also known as lese-majeste law and the Computer Crime Act.

Thaksin Shinawatra did not attend his case’s hearing on Wednesday due to a COVID-19 infection and asked the court to postpone it to June 15. However, the OAG Prayut Phetcharakhum spokesman said that Shinawatra will need to appear before the court on June 18 for the indictment’s hearing.

Following this decision, the former prime minister’s lawyer Winyat Chartmontri stated at a news conference that he will proceed to defend his client against the charges brought against him. He also questioned the authenticity of the interview video used by Thai authorities to charge Thaksin Shinawatra. He suspected that it might not be the original one, so the defense team will have it examined by experts.

Thaksin Shinawatra was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 to 2006 before he was ousted by a coup and forced to live in self-imposed exile for 15 years. When he returned to the country in August 2023, he was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison over corruption and abuse of power charges before he was released on parole in February 2024.

The lese-majeste law is a controversial legislation that criminalizes insults and threats towards the king, queen, and heirs to the Thai throne with a sentence that could reach up to 15 years in prison. The opposition party, Move Forward Party (MFP), previously attempted to amend the royal insult law and reduce the sentence. However, the country’s Constitutional Court rejected the party’s petition and found it illegal.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s indictment for royal insult comes a few days after an activist musician was sentenced to spend four years in prison for insulting Thailand’s monarchy and violating the Computer Crime Act. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal ruled a record sentence of 50 years in prison against a Thai cloth merchant in January 2024 for defamatory social media posts.