‘Ex-PM Thaksin to return to Thailand on Tuesday’

Mr. Thaksin later said he was definitely coming home this time.

August 20, 2023 03:00 am | Updated August 22, 2023 05:41 pm IST - Bangkok

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. File

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. File | Photo Credit: AP

Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to return to the kingdom on Tuesday, the same day as a key parliamentary vote could end a political deadlock, his daughter said.

The 74-year-old billionaire was ousted in a 2006 military coup and has spent 15 years in self-exile.

Mr. Thaksin has long said he wanted to return home but faces multiple criminal charges that he says are politically motivated.

"On Tuesday, August 22, 9 am I will pick up my father Thaksin at Don Muang Airport," his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who is one of the Pheu Thai Party's candidates for prime minister, said on Instagram.

Mr. Thaksin later said he was definitely coming home this time.

"I don't want to offend people. I want everyone to love each other. I want the country to be peaceful," he told BBC Thai Saturday.

"I'm old, I miss my grandchildren, I want to be with my family."

His return will coincide with an afternoon vote on whether to approve Srettha Thavisin — from the Mr. Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai Party — as prime minister and end months of political uncertainty since a May general election.

To become premier, Mr. Srettha needs to muster a majority across the lower house of 500 elected MPs, and the 250-member senate that was handpicked by the kingdom's last junta.

The progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) won the most parliamentary seats in the election but the senate blocked its leader from becoming prime minister, after being spooked by a controversial policy to reform the kingdom's harsh royal insult laws.

Pheu Thai came second in the race and has been trying to form a government.

While he's long been a divisive figure, political analysts don't expect Mr. Thaksin's presence to kick off protests.

"I think Thai people have moved on from Thaksin," Verapat Pariyawong, a political analyst, told AFP.

Mr. Verapat expects Mr. Thaksin will likely be taken to court upon arrival.

"His return means that he is confident that when he lands in Thailand he won't be a victim of political games and that the steps are there to make sure he is in a comfortable position," Mr. Verapat said.

"The real question is whether he will actually come back, and if yes, where did he get that assurance from?"

Mr. Thaksin has lived in self-exile, mostly in Dubai, since 2008 and regularly addresses supporters on the Clubhouse social media platform using the alias Tony Woodsome.

He was convicted during his time abroad in four criminal cases, one of which has now passed the statute of limitations.

His sentences for the other three total 10 years in prison, while he is still under investigation in another case, and in his May message he said he was ready to face justice.

He has long maintained the cases were politically motivated.

Mr. Thaksin previously slated an August 10 return to Bangkok but postponed citing a medical appointment.

Political analyst Yuttaporn Issarachai said there had long been rumours about his return and still no guarantees it would happen this time.

"I give it a 50-50 chance," Yuttaporn told AFP, adding that his return might cause distress among the senators.

Mr. Thaksin's slated return sparked mixed reactions and the hashtag #Thaksinreturnshome was trending on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"I bet we won't see him in Don Muang," one X user wrote.

Plumber Prasert Yenjaipaisan, 47, said Mr. Thaksin was within his rights to come home if he wanted. "He makes his own decisions," he told AFP.

Bangkok cleaner Bow, 35, doubted he would return.

"He keeps postponing, I didn't think he will come back, but if he does, I will be very surprised," she said.

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