Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra released on bail amid lese-majeste, computer crime charges

Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra released on bail amid lese-majeste, computer crime charges
Image source: Reuters

Bangkok, Thailand: Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been released on bail amounting to 500,000 baht following his arraignment on charges of lese-majeste and computer crimes related to remarks made during a 2015 interview, Bangkok Post reported.

The Criminal Court granted bail after Thaksin reported to public prosecutors on Tuesday morning and appeared for his arraignment, as confirmed by the Office of the Attorney-General's spokesman.

Prayut Phetcharakhun, speaking on behalf of the OAG, stated that the court formally accepted the case at 8:56 am, marking Thaksin as an official defendant. Conditions of his release include surrendering his passport and a prohibition from leaving Thailand without court permission. The decision to grant bail was made under the assurance that Thaksin would not flee, tamper with evidence, engage in harmful acts, or obstruct judicial proceedings, as reported by Bangkok Post.

Last month, the OAG announced its intention to indict Thaksin, who was under parole at the time. The indictment, originally scheduled earlier, was postponed due to Thaksin's reported contraction of Covid-19, rescheduled for June 18.

Thaksin, aged 74, faces accusations stemming from comments made to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo in May 2015, alleging support for the 2014 coup by privy councillors, which led to the ousting of his sister Yingluck Shinawatra's government. The initial complaint was filed in 2015 by Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, then deputy defence minister under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's military administration.

The Judge Advocate General's Department, acting on Gen Udomdej's directive, pursued legal action against Thaksin, culminating in the OAG's filing of charges. The Criminal Court accepted the case in 2015, issuing an arrest warrant as Thaksin remained overseas until his return to Thailand in August of the previous year, according to Bangkok Post.

Authorities allege that Thaksin's statements in the interview violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese-majeste law, in addition to offenses under the Computer Crimes Act. The OAG, following police recommendations, opted to press charges encompassing both statutes, according to their spokesperson.

The charge under the Computer Crimes Act pertains to Thaksin's purported inputting of data into a computer system deemed detrimental to national security. Denying any wrongdoing, Thaksin faces potential pre-trial detention should bail be denied subsequent to the indictment.

The lese-majeste law carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 15 years for each perceived affront against the monarchy. The legal proceedings against Thaksin underscore ongoing sensitivities and legal rigor concerning expressions related to the Thai monarchy, a cornerstone of the nation's legal and cultural framework, Bangkok Post reported.