BANGKOK: Jailed former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is to be freed, the kingdom's justice minister said on Tuesday (Feb 13), possibly as soon as the weekend - just six months after returning from 15 years of self-imposed exile.
The controversial billionaire, twice elected premier and ousted in a 2006 military coup, was jailed for eight years on graft and abuse of power charges in August, but within days had his sentence cut to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong said on Tuesday that the former Manchester City owner, 74, would be among 930 prisoners granted early release.
"He is in the group where they are in a critical condition or aged over 70. He will be released after six months automatically," Tawee Sodsong told reporters.
Thaksin was jailed on Aug 22 last year, and Thai media reported that his release could come any day from Saturday.
The exact details of his release are not clear, but he may be subject to monitoring - possibly with an ankle tag - and restrictions on his right to travel.
His homecoming coincided with his Pheu Thai party returning to government in alliance with pro-military parties, leading many to conclude that an agreement had been struck to cut his jail time.
The rumours grew stronger when he was transferred to a police hospital within hours of being sentenced because of his poor health, and it is not clear that he has spent any time in a prison cell.
Local media reported Thaksin had been suffering from chest tightness and high blood pressure when he was admitted to hospital, and in the following months, his family said he had undergone two operations.
Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to return to Thailand after spending more than 15 years abroad in self-exile. CNA’s Saksith Saiyasombut explains why Mr Thaksin, said to be currently in Hong Kong, remains a relevant figure in Thailand and why his return could cause a stir.