Thailand’s former leader gets a partial pardon

Thailand’s King commuted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s prison sentence from eight years to one year on Friday (1 September).

Thaksin has had a wild ride through Thai politics. He was:

  • 🗳️ Elected in 2001 and re-elected by a landslide in 2005, making him the first Thai prime minister to complete a full term in office
  • 👩‍⚖️ But the billionaire was ousted in a 2006 coup while in New York, and
  • 🏝️ He went into self-imposed exile in the UAE after being convicted of corruption in 2008.

But on 22 August, just as parliament was selecting a member of his own party as Thailand’s next prime minister, Thaksin finally returned to the country and was quickly detained, then sentenced to eight years in prison.

Intrigue’s take: Thaksin’s populist style made him enormously popular with rural and working-class voters. And this made him a threat to Thailand’s military and aristocratic elite.

But after a stellar performance from another (stridently reformist) party in May’s elections, Thaksin (74) and his party suddenly seemed more palatable. What’s that saying about the devil you know?

Also worth noting:

  • Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, served as prime minister from 2011 to 2014 before the military removed her. His daughter was a candidate for prime minister in this year’s elections.
  • Thaksin was once briefly the majority owner of Manchester City Football Club in the UK.