Former Thai PM Thaksin Formally Charged in Royal Insult Case

Former Thai PM Thaksin Formally Charged in Royal Insult Case

Former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra was formally charged in a royal insult case Tuesday, part of a series of legal cases that threaten to plunge the Southeast Asian country into political turmoil. 

Thaksin, a two-time former prime minister and the de facto leader of the ruling Pheu Thai party, was arraigned under Thailand’s stringent lèse-majesté law that protects the royal family from criticism, according to a spokesman with the attorney general’s office.

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While the outcome of the case is far from certain, the litigation pose risks to the less than a year old government that was formed after a messy general election last year. They also signal the possible unraveling of a deal that saw Pheu Thai and a clutch of pro-royalist and military-aligned parties joining hands to take power and paving the way for Thaksin’s return from a 15-year exile.

The charges against Thaksin, 74, stem from an interview he gave in Seoul in 2015 that prosecutors deemed had breached Article 112 of Thailand’s penal code, which carries a maximum jail term of 15 years for each offense of defaming the monarchy.

The attorney general last month decided to indict Thaksin, saying there was enough evidence to press ahead with a trial. Thaksin has rejected the charges and his lawyer has vowed to contest the case in the court. 

“The case is baseless — it’s fruit from a toxic tree,” Thaksin told reporters on June 8, in his first public comments about his legal troubles, which stem from remarks he made in 2015 in the wake of the military takeover. “It’s an example that shows how charges are abused after a coup.”

Thailand’s Constitutional Court is also scheduled to resume deliberations on a case that seeks Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s removal from power over allegations of ethical violations in appointing a lawyer who spent time in prison as a cabinet minister.

The mounting political uncertainty have rattled Thailand’s financial markets, prompting foreign investors to pull out more than $3 billion from the nation’s stocks and bonds. The benchmark SET Index of stocks has slumped to a near four-year low, ranking it the worst-performer of all global bourses tracked by Bloomberg in the past year, while the baht is Asia’s worst performer after the Japanese yen this year.  

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