In a recent public announcement, the Department of Corrections has confirmed that Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, is set to extend his stay at the Police General Hospital. Shinawatra, who is currently serving a prison term, was granted an extension on his hospital stay, following his initial 60-day out-of-prison period, which had reached its end on October 23rd.
This development came as a result of a recommendation provided by Sahakarn Phetnarin, director-general of the Department of Corrections. The decision was based on professional medical advice, as disclosed by the department in their official press statement over the weekend.
The statement further revealed that the necessity for Shinawatra’s ongoing treatment was proposed by physicians from the Bangkok Remand Prison, hence the need for him to remain admitted at the Police General Hospital. The statement carefully noted that the specifics around his medical condition could not be made public due to patient’s right to privacy and the adherence to medical ethical guidelines.
Shinawatra at 74, has been known to grapple with health challenges such as hypertension, heart disease, respiratory issues, and other health complications common with his age range. It’s also important to note that Shinawatra went through a surgical operation last month for an undisclosed medical condition, as shared by his daughter, Paetongtarn.
In line with departmental procedures, the director-general’s approval, the medical advice, and all relevant information have been submitted to the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Justice for the final approval on the extension. With the departmental regulations on prisoner’s transfers to external healthcare facilities, any extended stay beyond 30 days requires official authorization from the director-general of the Department of Corrections. This permission was granted on September 22nd.
If the treatment spans more than 60 days, the approval of the permanent secretary for Justice is solicited. If the treatment endures past 120 days, the justice minister’s approval becomes mandatory. Recently, the national police chief, Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol, referred to the medical opinion as the deciding factor for the Department of Corrections on whether Shinawatra would return to prison or not, excluding the Office of the Royal Thai Police from the decision-making process.
The police chief had earlier in the week instructed the Police General Hospital to submit a comprehensive report on the treatment provided for Shinawatra. This order followed the circulation of a photo that captured the former prime minister on a hospital gurney, clad in a hospital gown and face mask, en route for a computed tomography (CT) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The image which gained social media traction stirred up a discourse on the potential preferential treatment that Shinawatra could be receiving.
This controversy prompted a group named the Network of Students and People Reforming Thailand to request the Ministry of Justice to halt any special privileges to Shinawatra. After over 15 years away from the country, Shinawatra returned on August 22nd and was immediately sentenced to eight, reduced to one year under a royal pardon, prison years on three counts of abuse of authority and conflict of interest during his time as premier prior to 2006.
Thaksin was taken into the Police General Hospital on August 22nd’s evening, a mere 13 hours following his prison admission, where he has been resident since then. Both the Royal Thai Police and the Department of Corrections have firmly refused any allegations of granting the former premier any preferential treatment.