Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has revoked royal decorations awarded to deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, citing his corruption conviction and “extremely inappropriate” flight from the country.
The announcement in the royal gazette on Saturday came less than a week after Thailand held its first election since a military coup in 2014.
Pheu Thai, a political party linked to Thaksin, is now jostling with the military-backed Phalang Pracharat party for the right to form a government.
Officials have yet to release the full results of the election, which Thaksin has called “rigged”.
Saturday’s royal command said Thaksin was stripped of the “illustrious order of Chula Chom Klao”, typically bestowed for service to the country.
“King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun issued a royal command to revoke royal decorations, because Thaksin Shinawatra was sentenced to jail by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, in addition to many other accusations, and he fled the kingdom, which is a highly inappropriate behavior,” it read.
Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile since fleeing the country in 2008 to avoid a corruption trial. He was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to two years in jail.
Publicly revoking Thaksin’s royal decorations could discredit him, and perhaps his affiliated party, in the eyes of many Thais, because the monarchy is revered without question in Thai culture.
The monarchy is above politics in Thailand, but that tradition was tested last month when the king’s sister accepted the nomination to run for prime minister for another pro-Thaksin party.
The king swiftly declared Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi’s candidacy “inappropriate” and both the princess and the party were disqualified.
The March 24 vote took place after nearly 15 years of turmoil, during which Thailand saw two army coups, in 2006 and 2014, which deposed Thaksin and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, respectively.
Despite living abroad, the former prime minister has remained a divisive figure in Thai politics. Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2001, even after his removal.
The king’s order came after a series of moves by Thaksin that could be seen as challenging the monarchy.
Two days before the Sunday vote, Thaksin appeared at his youngest daughter’s wedding in Hong Kong with Princess Ubolratana.
The day after that, the king made an unexpected and cryptic statement, recalling a comment made by his late father on the need to put “good people” in power and to prevent “bad people from … creating chaos”.
|Thaksin Shinawatra, centre, accompanies Princess Ubolratana, centre left, as they arrive for the wedding of Thaksin’s youngest daughter at a hotel in Hong Kong [Kin Cheung/ AP]|
Al Jazeera and news agencies