Thai King strips ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra of royal decorations

The move was because Thaksin Shinawatra was convicted by the Supreme Court and had fled the kingdom, which is "extremely inappropriate behaviour", a royal statement said. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - The Thai King has revoked the royal decorations of billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, citing his conviction and "extremely inappropriate" flight from the country, according to an announcement published on Saturday (March 30).

The statement in the Royal Gazette from King Maha Vajiralongkorn comes almost a week after the country held its first election since a military coup in 2014 installed a royalist junta.

Pheu Thai, a political party linked to Thaksin, is now jostling with the junta-backed Palang Pracharath for the right to form a government.

The billionaire told AFP in an interview last week that the election was "rigged".

The royal statement said the king "recalls the royal decorations" from the former premier "because Mr Thaksin was convicted by the Supreme Court".

"Moreover, he has fled the kingdom, which is extremely inappropriate behaviour."

The former premier was stripped of the "illustrious order of Chula Chom Klao", typically bestowed for service to the country.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled the country in 2008. He was convicted in Thailand on corruption charges.

His sister Yingluck became prime minister in 2011 before being removed in the coup three years later.

King Vajiralongkorn issued an announcement on the eve of the election, calling for Thais to support "good" people to prevent "chaos" - a declaration replayed right before polls opened on March 24.

The monarch also sent jitters across the country in February after a party linked to the Shinawatras nominated Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya as a candidate for prime minister - which he swiftly called "inappropriate" in a royal rebuke.

The party was dissolved and its executives barred from political life for 10 years.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, but the palace holds unassailable powers and is shielded from criticism by a harsh royal defamation law.

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