The latest image of Thailand’s ex-premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, at the Police Hospital sparked heated arguments on social media regarding the alleged special privileges he might be receiving.
The image, which was widely shared on Thai social media on Friday, October 13th, showed a person resembling inmate Thaksin being carried on a gurney. He was wearing a hospital gown and a mask and was accompanied by a heavy presence of medical staff. According to Thai media, his two daughters were also seen by his side, although this has yet to be confirmed.
The picture immediately became a much-debated topic among Thai social media users, with some accusing that the picture was deliberately leaked to justify Thaksin’s long stay at the Police Hospital instead of in prison.
Thaksin, 74, came back to Thailand on August 22nd after spending 15 years in self-imposed exile. On that very day, the Supreme Court gave him an eight-year imprisonment for three separate cases.
Nevertheless, due to alleged health concerns, he was transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to the Police General Hospital on the same night, and has remained there ever since. Thaksin’s sentence was also reduced to one year after he sought a royal pardon.
Responding to public concerns, Sahakan Phetnarin, Director-General of the Corrections Department, confirmed on Saturday that the person in the photograph was indeed Thaksin. He was in the process of being moved from his hospital room for a CT scan and an MRI, Sahakan said.
The examination, which lasted about an hour, was ordered by Thaksin’s doctors, Sahakan added. Despite confirming that the ex-premier was safe and that he was not receiving any privileges, the director-general declined to provide details about Thaksin’s current condition, citing patient confidentiality.
He went on to say that the hospital allowed Thaksin’s family visit so that they were aware of his current treatment.
However, Sahakan said he had no idea whether Thaksin’s stay would be extended in the future since Thaksin’s doctors had yet to inform the department.
His stay in the hospital is scheduled to be completed on October 22nd, and any further extension would require notification of the Justice Minister.
Some activists have continually argued for a transparent release of Thaksin’s health conditions and an examination by what they call an unbiased third party doctor but this has been denied continually by prison officials, citing privacy.