Thailand set to indict former PM Thaksin Shinawatra for ‘insulting’ monarchy

Thaksin Shinawatra is set to be indicted for allegedly insulting Thailand’s monarchy, making the influential former prime minister the highest profile citizen to face the charge.

Mr Shinawatra, 74, is required to appear before the court on 18 June. He is also facing other charges that include violating a computer crime law.

The complaint against the former prime minister was filed by the royalist military leaders who ousted his sister’s government in 2015.

Mr Shinawatra has repeatedly denied the accusation and affirmed his loyalty to the crown. Criticising the monarchy is forbidden under Thailand’s strict lese majeste law.

Mr Shinawatra plans to seek bail, his lawyer Winyat Chartmontri told Reuters. He questioned the authenticity of the video of a 2015 interview in which the former premier is alleged to have made the insult.

Mr Shinawatra, who founded the Pheu Thai Party, has remained a central figure in Thai politics despite facing multiple military coups and legal challenges over the years.

His recent return from exile and brief detention have sparked speculation about a possible deal with his rivals. His allies deny such claims.

The Pheu Thai Party, now led by his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, is the majority ruling part of Thailand.

Mr Shinawatra had been in self-imposed exile since 2008, but returned to Thailand in August last year to begin serving an eight-year sentence.

He was released on parole in February from the hospital in Bangkok where he spent six months serving time for corruption-related offences.

The news of Mr Shinawatra’s impending indictment comes just days after Chonthicha Jangrew, an MP with the Move Forward Party, was sentenced to two years in prison over a speech that she made at an anti-government protest in 2021.

Ms Jangrew, 31, denies all charges. She was given bail pending an appeal, her lawyer said, allowing her to hold on to her parliamentary seat.

Ms Jangrew, also known as “Lookkate”, is among a number of protest leaders and participants facing charges under Article 112 of Thailand’s penal code, commonly referred to as the lese majeste law.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, approximately 270 people, primarily students involved in the 2020-2021 protests, have been targeted under this provision, earning them the moniker “Article 112ers”.

Additional reporting by agencies