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Influential former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has escaped pre-trial detention after the Criminal Court granted him bail on a royal defamation charge.

The Criminal Court on Tuesday (18 June) formally indicted the former PM for royal defamation after he missed the previous indictment hearing due to COVID-19 infection.

The charges against him under the royal defamation law and the Computer Crime Act stem from an interview he gave to a South Korean newspaper in 2015 where he said the Privy Council was the apparatus that assisted the National Council for Peace and Order to come to power in a 2014 coup.

The complaint was filed by the Technology Crime Suppression Division in 2016. Given Thaksin did not report to the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), the OAG decided to indict him and issued an arrest warrant. As the statute of limitations in this case is 15 years and has yet to run out, the case was reinitiated after the former PM returned from self-exile last year.

Thaksin could not attend the indictment hearing at the court on 29 May due to a COVID-19 infection. The hearing was rescheduled to today (18 June).

He gave an interview on 8 June regarding the case, saying that “there is nothing”. He reiterated that this case would serve as an example of how charges were fabricated during a coup, noting that it is a baseless case and should not have been a lawsuit from the beginning. He previously requested fair treatment from the OAG and mentioned in his letter to the OAG that the inquiry officers at that time were under pressure from those in power, and that the process to obtain the evidence was unlawful.

The former PM has been granted provisional bail with 500,000 baht as security on the grounds that he has a permanent residence and it is believed that he does not pose a flight risk and will not tamper with the evidence. He also denied all charges. He is prohibited from traveling abroad.

Thaksin’s lawyer Winyat Chartmontri said the former PM has been indicted as charged. According to the court, the two offenses were also committed by more than two persons and Thaksin was considered one of the principals according to Section 83 of the Criminal Code. The lawyer remarked that the prosecutors and the inquiry officers have not interrogated the South Korean reporter, when the alleged crime occurred outside the Kingdom. The lawyer had already sent a letter asking the OAG to find digital evidence before indicting Thaksin. If no such action is taken, the lawyer said they will exercise their legal rights.

Winyat Chartmontri

Evidence examination is scheduled for 19 August. 

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