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Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin returns from exile, further roiling Thai politics

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, foreground, with, from left, his son Phantongtae, his daughters Pinthongta and Paetongtarn, arrive at Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.
Sakchai Lalit
/
AP
Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, foreground, with, from left, his son Phantongtae, his daughters Pinthongta and Paetongtarn, arrive at Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.

Thailand's self-exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand on Tuesday after more than 15 years of self-imposed exile.

After his arrival, Thaksin was taken to the Supreme Court, where he was sentenced to eight years in connection with three separate cases. It is unclear, however, how much time he will actually serve.

Thaksin's return coincides with a vote in Parliament Tuesday on the formation of a new government his Pheu Thai party looks set to head. His return fueled speculation that his arrival is tied to the party's pursuit of power.

Thaksin, 74, made billions by building a fortune in the telecommunications industry. He was first elected prime minister in 2001 by promoting populist policies, and was reelected in 2005.

Thaksin was deposed by the military in 2006 and has been living in exile to avoid facing charges of corruption and abuse of office he claims are politically motivated. He was convicted in absentia on several counts but has remained a key player in Thai politics even in exile.

His sister Yingluck became prime minister in 2011 before her government, too, was removed by a military coup in 2014.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.
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