Thailand to indict former PM Thaksin over royal insult

Thailand's attorney-general will indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for allegedly insulting the monarchy, in a setback to a political heavyweight whose loyalists are currently in government.

The complaint, lodged on Wednesday by the royalist military that ousted the government of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, had stemmed from an interview the influential tycoon gave to foreign media in 2015.

"The attorney-general has decided to indict Thaksin on all charges," spokesperson Prayuth Bejraguna told reporters, adding the former premier will need to appear before court on June 18.

Other charges against Thaksin include breaching a computer crime law.

His lawyer Winyat Chartmontri told Reuters his client could not appear at Wednesday's hearing due to a COVID-19 infection.

Thaksin, 74, has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to the crown, criticism of which is forbidden under Thailand's lese-majeste law, which is one of the world's strictest of its kind.

The billionaire, who was convicted of abuse of power and conflicts of interest, was released on parole in February after six months in detention.

He made a dramatic return in 2023 from 15 years of self-imposed exile, during which he remained a central figure throughout repeated bouts of political upheaval.

Thaksin would be the highest-profile case among more than 270 prosecutions in recent years under the lese-majeste law, which carries a maximum jail term of 15 years for each perceived insult of the royal family.