Thailand’s Thaksin delays plan to return from 15-year exile

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (picture) postponed a plan to return from 15 years of self-imposed exile by about two weeks, as a political party backed by his family faces hurdles in forming a government.

Thaksin, 74, said he decided to delay the return originally set for Aug. 10 because he needed to do a health check-up and would announce a new date later, according to a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.  

The timing of Thaksin’s homecoming — first announced by his daughter Paetongtarn last month — coincided with efforts by the Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai Party to form Thailand’s next government. The group’s former ally Move Forward Party’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat was blocked from taking the top political office through votes in Parliament despite winning the May general election. 

Pheu Thai is courting lawmakers in the lower house and the military-appointed Senate to seal the prime minister post for its nominee Srettha Thavisin, seeking to end a political stalemate that’s kept investors on edge since May 14. 

A new date for the next vote has not been set. Parliament suspended the process pending further clarity from the Constitutional Court, which on Friday deferred making a decision about Pita’s re-nomination petition. On Friday, Pheu Thai also canceled its plan to unveil a new coalition, which it had made clear would exclude reformist Move Forward to appease conservative lawmakers and military-appointed Senate. 

It’s not the first time that Thaksin, a popular but polarizing politician, has postponed plans to return after he was ousted from his second term as premier in a military coup in 2006. As recently as May in the middle of election campaign, he pledged to return before his birthday in July to raise his seven grandchildren.

Thaksin has lived overseas since fleeing the country in 2008 to avoid corruption charges, shuttling between Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and London. Since leaving Thailand, he had been found guilty in absentia in several graft cases he said were politically motivated, and still faces a combined 10 years in prison in three cases if he returns.

He said in May that he would enter the justice process upon his return and that he didn’t want an amnesty from jail terms — something previously attempted by a government headed by his sister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013 before it was toppled in a 2014 coup. –BLOOMBERG