Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin is in trouble again as he's indicted for royal defamation

News

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin is in trouble again as he's indicted for royal defamation
News

News

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin is in trouble again as he's indicted for royal defamation

2024-06-18 19:38 Last Updated At:19:40

BANGKOK (AP) — Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was indicted and arraigned Tuesday on a charge of defaming the country’s monarchy in one of several court cases that have rattled Thai politics. He was granted bail.

Thaksin is the unofficial power behind the party leading the government, Pheu Thai, despite being ousted from power in a coup 18 years ago.

He reported himself to prosecutors Tuesday morning and was indicted, Prayuth Bejraguna, a spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General, said at a news conference.

Thaksin, 74, voluntarily returned to Thailand last year from self-imposed exile and served virtually all of his sentence on corruption-related charges in a hospital rather than prison on medical grounds. He was granted release on parole in February.

Since then, Thaksin has maintained a high profile, traveling the country making public appearances and political observations that could upset the powerful conservative establishment that was behind his 2006 ouster.

His removal from power had started a deep political polarization in Thailand. Thaksin’s opponents, who were generally staunch royalists, accused him of corruption, abuse of power and disrespecting then-King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016.

Prosecution of the long-ago lese majeste case is seen by some analysts as a warning from Thaksin's enemies that he should tone down his political activities.

Thaksin's lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree, told reporters that Thaksin was ready to enter the judicial process. The Criminal Court, where Thakisin was arraigned after being indicted, said Thaksin's bail release was approved with a bond of 500,000 baht ($13,000) under the condition that he cannot travel out of Thailand unless approved by court. His passport was confiscated.

The law on defaming the monarchy, an offense known as lese majeste, is punishable by three to 15 years in prison. It is among the harshest such laws globally and increasingly has been used in Thailand to punish government critics.

Winyat said his client is “not worried, and he’s always maintained that he hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s come here with full confidence in fighting his case.”

Thaksin was originally charged with lese majeste in 2016 for remarks he made a year earlier to journalists in South Korea. The case was not pursued at that time because he went into exile in 2008 to avoid punishment from cases he decried as political.

His case is just one of the several that have complicated Thai politics since the Pheu Thai government took office after the Senate — a conservative, military-appointed body — successfully blocked the progressive Move Forward party, which captured most votes, from taking power last year.

Move Forward is now facing dissolution after the Election Commission asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether it is guilty of attempting to overthrow the system of constitutional monarchy by campaigning to amend the lese majeste law.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is from Pheu Thai, meanwhile is being probed over his appointment of a Cabinet member who had been imprisoned for bribery. If found culpable, Srettha could be forced out of his position.

Thailand’s courts, especially the Constitutional Court, are considered bulwarks of the royalist establishment, which has used them and nominally independent state agencies such as the Election Commission to cripple political opponents.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday held procedural hearings on both Move Forward’s and Srettha’s cases, scheduling further proceedings for July 3 in the former case and July 10 in the latter.

The court also ruled on Tuesday that the regulations guiding the partially completed, three-stage voting process to select a new Senate are legal.

The term of the current Senate, appointed by the junta that toppled a previous Pheu Thai government in 2014, expired last month, opening up an opportunity to make its membership more democratic.

Forty members of the interim Senate were behind the petition against Srettha, a move that is seen as favoring a pro-military political party in the coalition government.

The situation is a stark reminder of the challenges Pheu Thai faces from forming alliances with its old enemies, said Napon Jatusripitak, a political science researcher and visiting fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He said it also reflects “a highly lopsided balance of power between elected and unelected forces in Thailand.”

“Thai democracy is once again being held hostage by forces that are unaccountable to public interests,” he said.

Follow AP's Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

FILE - Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrives at Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 22, 2023. Thai prosecutors said Thaksin was formally indicted Tuesday, June 18, 2024, on a charge of defaming Thailand's monarchy in one of several court cases that have unsteadied Thai politics. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

FILE - Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrives at Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 22, 2023. Thai prosecutors said Thaksin was formally indicted Tuesday, June 18, 2024, on a charge of defaming Thailand's monarchy in one of several court cases that have unsteadied Thai politics. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump said he plans to announce his vice presidential pick on Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention.

It remains unclear whether the assassination attempt Saturday at his Pennsylvania rally has changed the former president's thinking about his potential second-in-command. But he told Fox News Channel host Bret Baier in a call that he planned to make his pick Monday.

The roll call vote to nominate that person is expected Monday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the schedule who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The person cautioned that Trump could always change his mind.

After Saturday's shooting, Trump's choice carries considerably more gravity. If a bullet had struck just a little bit to the right, Trump likely would have been killed or seriously injured.

The close call puts in stark relief the significance of a position that is a heartbeat away from the presidency. Trump has repeatedly claimed that choosing someone who was qualified to take over as commander in chief was his top consideration for the role.

“You need somebody that can be good just in case, that horrible just in case,” he said in an interview with “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” in May.

In an interview with Fox News’ Harris Faulkner taped hours before the Butler, Pennsylvania, rally, Trump was asked about how close he was to his VP pick and whether his decision-making would change if President Joe Biden steps aside.

“It’s a very important position especially if something bad should happen,” Trump said. “That’s the most important, if something bad should happen.”

Those on Trump's shortlist have differing levels of governing experience. Ohio Sen. JD Vance, for instance, has been in office less than two years, while North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum helms a state with a population (780,000 people) smaller than Columbus, Ohio (908,000). Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been in politics for decades and is in his third term in the Senate.

Before the shooting, Trump had made clear that he wanted to dramatically reveal his pick at the convention, which he said would make it more “interesting” and “exciting.”

“It’s like a highly sophisticated version of ‘The Apprentice,’” he quipped in a radio interview last week, referring to the show he once hosted that featured him firing contestants on camera.

Trump and convention organizers have said the RNC's schedule will go on as planned despite the shooting, with Trump writing on his social media site that he could not “allow a ‘shooter,’ or potential assassin, to force change to scheduling, or anything else.”

“In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United, and show our True Character as Americans, remaining Strong and Determined, and not allowing Evil to Win,” he wrote.

He held meetings in the days before the shooting with the top contenders. All have submitted material, including bios and photographs, to convention organizers that can be used to prepare content if they're picked, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secretive process.

The private meetings with Vance, Rubio and Burgum were first reported by ABC News.

Nothing was offered during the meetings, one of the people said.

Trump waiting until the convention to choose a running mate is later than usual for recent cycles but is hardly unprecedented.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan negotiated with former President Gerald Ford for hours during the Republican convention in Detroit but settled on his former primary rival George H.W. Bush when those discussions collapsed. Reagan cut it so close that his decision came less than 24 hours before he formally accepted the GOP nomination.

Bush himself waited until the 1988 Republican convention in New Orleans before shocking many attendees — as well as some of the then-vice president’s own top advisers — by picking little-known Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle to be his No. 2, rather than a more established running mate.

Since then, though, the tradition has been to pick a running mate shortly before the candidate’s party’s convention opens.

In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain, looking for a way to reset his race against Democrat Barack Obama, picked little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin shortly before the Republican convention opened in Minnesota. He got a bump in the polls that didn't last.

Biden, a Democrat, tapped then-California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate six days before his party opened its convention, which was held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. And Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in the days before the 2016 Republican convention opened in Cleveland.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Will Weissert contributed to this report from Washington.

Follow the AP's coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Former President Trump waves to supporters after arriving to the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former President Trump waves to supporters after arriving to the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

FILE - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks, June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Rubio is a top contender to be selected as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks, June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Rubio is a top contender to be selected as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum attend a caucus night rally, Feb. 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. Burgum, who has grown close with the former president since he dropped his own bid for the nomination before voting began, is the third top contender for Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum attend a caucus night rally, Feb. 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. Burgum, who has grown close with the former president since he dropped his own bid for the nomination before voting began, is the third top contender for Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Vance is a top contender to be selected as Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File)

FILE - Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Vance is a top contender to be selected as Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla. Trump waiting until the actual convention to choose a running mate is later than usual for recent cycles, but hardly unprecedented. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla. Trump waiting until the actual convention to choose a running mate is later than usual for recent cycles, but hardly unprecedented. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Recommended Articles