Thailand’s cabinet has endorsed a prisoner amnesty proposal that some say is designed to allow former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return from exile without serving jail time for abuse of power, Reuters reported.
The Bangkok Post reported that the Thai cabinet had agreed that people over 60 years of age sentenced to less than three years in prison should be granted amnesty. The cabinet plans to send the proposal to King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his approval in December, according to the Bangkok Post.
Thaksin is 62 years old and fled Thailand in 2008 after he was overthrown in a coup and convicted of abuse of power, Reuters reported. He currently resides in Dubai and travels on passports issued by Montenegro and Nicaragua after his Thai passport was canceled, according to Reuters.
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According to the New York Times:
Thai officials did not provide details of the decree, saying it was “secret” and needed approval from more than a dozen government committees before becoming law. But the prospect of an amnesty for Mr. Thaksin, who remains an extremely divisive figure in the country, stunned and angered the government’s opponents and risked aggravating old wounds after a period of relative political calm.
“It’s so obvious that this was done specifically for Thaksin,” Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the parliamentary opposition, told the Times.
Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, who served as Justice Minister in the previous government, told Reuters that amnesties should only apply to those who actually served time behind bars. "If we cut this issue off, it could mean that every wrongdoer, including a fugitive, can be whitewashed," he said. "It would benefit those fugitives who fled charges without going to jail, which is not right."
It’s an open secret that Thaksin has started serving an advisory role to the current government since his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, was elected prime minister in August, the Times reported. Thaksin has even held a meeting with members of Yingluck’s cabinet via Skype, the Times reported.
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Yingluck was not present at the cabinet meeting where the amnesty proposal was endorsed, the Bangkok Post reported. She refused to discuss the proposal with reporters today, saying only that the government would act within the law, Reuters reported.