Could a seemingly innocent Instagram snap of ex-prime minister Thaksin contentedly splashing around in a pool with his grandchild, in July 2021, trigger a stirred-up controversy? A former politician asserts it could, and according to him, it just did. The man behind this assertion is the ex-Democrat Party MP, Watchara Phetthong, who is using that image to raise suspicions about Thaksin, the 74-year-old, convalescent, convict.
Thaksin’s recent homecoming to Thailand after over a decade and a half of self-imposed exile was immediately marked with an eight-year prison sentence for abuse of power and conflict of interest during his time as premier, which, fortunately for him, was ultimately abbreviated to a year. A mere 13 hours into the jail term saw him admitted to the Police General Hospital, where he has resided till date. Watchara is now challenging Thaksin’s admission into the hospital and doubting whether he indeed qualifies medically for such care.
What’s even more, Watchara is calling for the summoning of the police chief to question him about the exact level of the hospital on which the swimming pool is situated — yes, the very same pool featured prominently in the Instagram image. Sharp-eyed netizens were quick to point out that the pool in landing the hot seat of discussion was not in Thailand, but rather, located overseas, perhaps in Dubai, which was Thaksin’s haunt for the greater part of his exile.
The photograph in the middle of all the brew-ha-ha was uploaded to Instagram by Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn “Ung Ing” Shinawatra on July 21, 2021. Another media product, a video that seems sourced from the same geographical location, was subsequently posted on her account only recently, in April 2022.
Pouncing on the vague allegations, Winyat Chatmontree, Thaksin’s legal advisor, has challenged Watchara to either correct his insinuations or brace for a legal strike. Winyat failed to conceal his bewilderment as he asked Watchara why he would ask such a question without duly verifying the photo?
While all this unfolds, Thaksin remains in the hospital, recovering from an undisclosed surgical procedure. Under established regulations managing the transfer of inmates to external healthcare facilities, approval from the director-general of the Department of Corrections is mandatory, provided that the stay extends beyond 30 days, and based on a sound medical review. Thereafter, should the treatment duration span over 60 days, sign-off is required from the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Justice, and in case the duration further extends to beyond 120 days, it must be green-lit by the justice minister himself.