x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Thaksin denies pardon rumour

The former Thai prime minister who was exiled after being charged with corruption says the country's priority should be on recovering from the recent flood, not on a royal pardon that may come his way.

DUBAI // The exiled former Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, 62, who lives in Dubai, yesterday said he did not expect to receive a royal pardon for corruption charges in his home country, following reports that he could receive an amnesty next month.

"I trust in the principle that the government will not do anything that will benefit me or any individual specifically," the former leader said in an open letter to the Thai people.

Dismissing the proposed pardon from King Bhumibol Adulyadej as a "rumour", Mr Thaksin's letter said: "Moreover, any action to be taken during this period of time must be merely taken so as to bring national reconciliation to our country and to overcome the crisis due to national disaster from big flood."

Mr Thaksin's lawyer, Noppadon Pattama, sent the letter to The National.

Reports surfaced last week that the cabinet, led by Mr Thaksin's sister and Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, had proposed an amnesty that would allow him to return to the country.

Mr Thaksin was overthrown by the military in 2006. He was charged with abuse of power and sentenced to two years in jail two years later.

A pardon is granted every year on the king's birthday on December 5. The decree applies to convicts, who are at least 60 years old and sentenced to under three years in jail.

Yesterday, Mr Thaksin said he was willing to be "patient", and national reconciliation in the politically turbulent country was a priority.

"I am prepared to sacrifice my personal happiness even though I have not received justice during the last five years. I will be patient for the sake of the people," he said.

Thailand was hit by one of the worst floods in its history, beginning three months ago. Prime Minister Yingluck, whose party, Pheu Thai, was elected to power this July, has come under criticism for a slow response to the crisis and poor flood management.

"I am concerned and want our country and all Thai people to pass through this crisis quickly, and that requires harmony and reconciliation in our country in order to overcome this natural disaster," Mr Thaksin said.

He said it was important for the country to "forgive and forget".

Earlier this year, when the Pheu Thai party regained power, Mr Thaksin told reporters in Dubai that he was in no hurry to return to Thailand despite fears that his US-educated sister and first-time premier was politically untested.

"My sister will be leading the country and the party. I am proud of her and trust her," he had said outside his home in Emirates Hills. However, he did not rule out the possibility of being an adviser to the newly elected government