Thaksin Shinawarta, the esteemed ex-Prime Minister, was all waves and smiles as he touched down at Don Mueang Airport back on August 22nd, a sight that was a cause of jubilation for his loyal supporters (Photo Credit: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill). Little did the world know, a more challenging episode lay ahead of him.
Despite his incarceration, Thaksin, affectionately known as “Thaksin the Great” by his followers, will continue to avail medical treatment at the Police General Hospital, courtesy of an extension bestowed by the stalwart head of the Department of Corrections. The 60-day out-of-prison reprieve that came into effect on Saturday was consequently extended based on the precipitant doctor’s medical advice, as indicated by a public announcement issued by the department’s PR wing on Saturday evening.
Medical professionals stationed at the Bangkok Remand Prison mooted the importance of Thaksin’s prolonged stay at the Police General Hospital for ongoing treatment. The nitty-gritty of his health status has been kept under wraps in line with the patient’s entitlement to privacy and adherence to medical ethical codes, as conveyed in the statement.
Thaksin, at the age of 74, grapples with a host of health adversities. High blood pressure, cardiac and respiratory complications, topped off with other issues that tail the elderly, are part and parcel of his life. The mystery surrounding an operation he underwent last month continues to prevail, with only his daughter Paetongtarn providing an insight into her father’s condition.
While final approval for Thaksin’s extension lies in the hands of the permament secretary for the Ministry of Justice, the director-general’s endorsement and correlating medical evidence have been duly referred. Hospital stays spanning beyond 30 days hinge on the seal of approval by the director-general of the Department of Corrections, a sanction that was secured on September 22nd. Subsequent treatment extending beyond 60 and 120 days would warrant green lights from the permament secretary for Justice and justice minister respectively.
During a recent briefing, National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol reiterated that the decision of repatriating the patient to the prison would be in the court of the Department of Corrections and is hinged on medical consultation. He stressed the incapacity of the Royal Thai Police to influence the final decision. Subsequently, he mandated the Police General Hospital to articulate a comprehensive report on Thaksin’s treatment.
This directive was catalysed by the circulation of a photograph showcasing Thaksin, decked in a patient’s gown and face mask, being hauled for computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Upon completion, he was swiftly redirected to his 14th-floor room, a sequence that quickly led to a social media storm and sparked debates about the special treatment possibly granted to the former Prime Minister.
A faction identifying as the Network of Students and People Reforming Thailand has since implored the Ministry of Justice to refrain from bestowing privileged treatment to Thaksin. Following a prolonged self-imposed exile spanning over a decade, Thaksin made his much-awaited return to his homeland on August 22nd. Unable to evade the grip of the law, he was abruptly sentenced to eight years in jail across three cases — later reduced to a year’s term following a royal pardon — for authority misuse and conflict of interests during his premiership before 2006.
Thaksin was relegated to the Police General Hospital only thirteen hours after his first stint in prison on the night of August 22nd. As he continues his stay at the medical facility, both the Royal Thai Police and the Department of Corrections adamantly dismiss any claims of preferential treatment conferred upon him.