Written by 02:39 World

Thaksin, Thai Ex-Premier, Indicted in Royal Defamation Case

Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister of Thailand who is also a powerful behind-the-scenes player in the current government, was indicted on Tuesday on a criminal charge of insulting the monarchy, ushering in a period of uncertainty that could plunge the country into a political crisis.

Mr. Thaksin is the most high-profile figure to be charged with violating the royal defamation law, which is one of the world’s harshest. He posted bail of about $14,000, according to Thailand’s court of justice, but the case could drag on for months.

The indictment was the latest sign of Thailand’s royalist-military establishment exerting its will. It allowed Mr. Thaksin to enter the country last year after 15 years of self-exile and effectively partnered with him — a longtime opponent — to prevent a new challenger from rising to power. Now, analysts say, it has used the threat of legal action against Mr. Thaksin, 74, to keep a check on his political ambitions.

Although Mr. Thaksin does not have a formal position in the current government, he is widely regarded to have powerful influence over the governing coalition, which is led by his political party, the Pheu Thai Party. Many of his allies have cabinet appointments.

The current prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, who is an ally of Mr. Thaksin’s, is also facing legal challenges that could leave him suspended from office. He is accused of running afoul of the constitution by appointing a lawyer with a criminal conviction to his cabinet. Mr. Srettha’s case was heard on Tuesday in the Constitutional Court.

That court is also hearing a petition to disband the opposition Move Forward Party, which won the top spot in last year’s election but was blocked from forming a government. In January, the court found the party guilty of breaching the constitution over its campaign to weaken the royal defamation law.

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Last modified: 20 June 2024
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