The Impact of Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra Facing Royal Insult Charges

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to face royal insult charges in Thailand, sparking a significant impact on the country’s political landscape. Thaksin, a controversial political figure, returned to Thailand last year after 15 years in exile only to face charges of insulting the monarchy based on an interview he gave to a Korean newspaper nine years ago. This move, indicative of Thailand’s notorious lese majeste law, signals a grave threat to freedom of speech and expression, as hundreds of individuals have already been charged under this law in recent years.

Thaksin’s return had initially seemed to alleviate the longstanding political rivalry between his family and conservative groups in Thailand. His party formed a coalition government with some political opponents following the 2023 election to push out the reformist Move Forward party. However, the indictment under the lese majeste law serves as a reminder that powerful forces within the royalist establishment still harbor animosity towards Thaksin.

The charges stem from Thaksin’s accusations against the king’s privy council during his exile period, where he alleged their involvement in the 2014 military coup that ousted his sister Yingluck Shinawatra from power. While technically the privy council is not covered under the lese majeste law, its interpretation has been broadened to silence any criticism related to the royal family.

The indictment highlights a broader crackdown on dissent and challenges to the monarchy, especially since mass protests four years ago that saw unprecedented public condemnation of the royal institution. Thaksin’s legal team remains confident in defending him, but this indictment could curtail his political ambitions in the interim, further complicating Thailand’s volatile political landscape.