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Activists demand truth about Thaksin hospital stay

A group calling itself the Network of Students and People Reforming Thailand has called on the Ministry of Justice to stop giving special privileges to jailed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

If the ministry fails to meet its demands, the group has threatened to go to the Premium Ward on the 14th floor of the Police General Hospital where Thaksin is said to be staying, to see if he is really there and sick enough to justify being treated there.

Thaksin was taken to the hospital from Bangkok Remand Prison, hours after returning on Aug 22 from 15 years of self-imposed exile. He was sentenced to eight years in prison — later reduced to one year under a royal pardon — for abuse of authority and conflict of interest while serving as premier prior to 2006.

The group’s three-point demand is that Thaksin be returned to prison immediately, that there be no extension to his treatment outside prison, and that a human rights organisation be allowed to monitor Thaksin’s health and communicate the “truth” to the public, said Pichit Chaimongkol, a group representative.

He said the ministry had failed to convince the public that Thaksin was really sick.

A photo circulated on social media last week of Thaksin being taken on a gurney for an MRI scan. He was returned to his room immediately afterward, authorities said. Department of Corrections officials and medical staff at the hospital have declined to discsuss the inmate’s condition, citing patient confidentiality.

Thaksin, 74, is known to have high blood pressure as well as heart and respiratory problems and other ailments associated with old age. He had surgery last month for an unspecified condition, his daughter Paetongtarn said.

The activists’ demands are intended for Phongsaward Neelayodhin, the permanent secretary for justice, who will soon have to decide whether Thaksin can continue to be treated outside a prison hospital.

Under the regulations governing inmate transfers to outside hospitals, any stay longer than 30 days must be approved by the director-general of the Department of Corrections, based on a medical opinion. That approval was granted on Sept 22.

If the treatment lasts more than 60 days — or beyond Oct 22 in Thaksin’s case — approval by the permanent secretary for Justice is needed. Approval by the justice minister is required if treatment lasts more than 120 days.

Nazer Yihma, another representative of the group, said that if the ministry fails to respond to its call, it will have no choice but to go up to the 14th floor of the hospital to see if Thaksin is really ill or not.

If Ms Phongsaward fails to respond to the call, the group will next petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate her for dereliction of duty, he added.

Related: Police chief demands Thaksin health report

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