Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as Thailand’s prime minister in 2006 and has lived in self-imposed exile for well more than a decade following a corruption conviction, said he planned to return to the Southeast Asian nation in July.
“I’ve decided to go home to raise my grandchildren within July, before my birthday,” Thaksin, who will turn 74 on July 26, said in a tweet on Tuesday, his second this month on the controversial subject of returning home. “It’s been almost 17 years that I’ve had to be apart from my family. I’m getting old.”
Thaksin’s pledge to return home comes days before Thailand’s general election on Sunday, in which the Pheu Thai Party that his sister Yingluck Shinawatra once led is projected to win the most seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. His youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, is one of the party’s three prime ministerial candidates and a front-runner to wrest the premiership from incumbent Prayuth Chan-Ocha, a former army chief who toppled Yingluck’s government in 2014.
Thaksin said he will enter the legal process upon his return with the country still being led by Prayuth’s caretaker government. The former premier faces jail term for a corruption conviction but the Shinawatras say the persecution was politically-motivated.
“Don’t worry that I’ll be a burden for Pheu Thai Party,” Thaksin wrote in a follow-up tweet that also alluded his loyalty to the monarchy. “It’s all my own decision for the love and bond I have for my family, homeland, and our master.”
On May 1, Paetongtarn gave birth to a baby boy in the midst of an election campaign that has seen Pheu Thai amass a solid lead in some opinion polls against ex-generals seeking to extend nearly a decade of army-backed rule. Although the vote is set for May 14, it may be weeks or months before a prime minister is elected as the military-appointed 250-member Senate will vote along with the lower house of parliament to decide who gets the top job.
Political parties affiliated with Thaksin have won the most seats in every national vote dating back to 2001, only to be unseated from power by dissolutions or coups. Pheu Thai also won the most seats in the 2019 election under rules seen as designed to hurt its performance. Prayuth then returned to power with support from a military-backed coalition.
Thaksin last week tweeted seeking “permission” to return to Thailand after the birth of his seventh grandchild. He had recently said that he would like to return even if it meant serving time in jail, adding that he didn’t want the government to push for an amnesty — something Yingluck’s government initiated before it was ousted in a 2014 coup.
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