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Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra charged with defaming country’s monarchy

Thaksin Shinawatra has been indicted over accusations that he defamed the country’s monarchy (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)
Thaksin Shinawatra has been indicted over accusations that he defamed the country’s monarchy (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was granted release on bail hours after he was formally indicted on Tuesday on a charge of defaming the country’s monarchy in one of several court cases that have rattled Thai politics.

Thaksin, an influential political figure despite being removed from power 18 years ago, reported himself to prosecutors on Tuesday morning and was indicted, Prayuth Bejraguna, a spokesperson for the office of the attorney general, said at a news conference.

A car believed to be carrying Mr Thaksin arrived at the Criminal Court in Bangkok but he did not come out to meet reporters.

His lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree, told reporters that Mr Thaksin was ready to enter the judicial process.

The same car left the court a few hours later after Mr Thaksin was granted bail, though again he did not meet with waiting reporters.

A few hours later, the criminal court said Mr Thaksin’s bail release was approved with a bond worth 500,000 baht (£10,200) under a condition that he cannot travel out of Thailand unless he receives permission from the court.

A court statement issued later listed several reasons for allowing bail, including Mr Thaksin’s age, his having a permanent address in Thailand and the lack of an objection from the prosecutor. It added that his passport was confiscated.

The law on defaming the monarchy, an offence known as lese majeste, is punishable by three to 15 years in prison. It is among the harshest such laws globally and increasingly has been used in Thailand to punish government critics.

Thaksin, now 74, was ousted by an army coup in 2006 that set off years of deep political polarisation.

His opponents, who were generally staunch royalists, had accused him of corruption, abuse of power and disrespecting then-King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016.

Mr Thaksin has maintained a high profile and is seen as the unofficial power behind the current government.