Exiled former celebrity minister Jakrapob returns to Thailand

Photo courtesy of The Nation

A former television celebrity and one-time Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office has set tongues wagging with his unexpected announcement of returning to Thailand. This marks his comeback after a self-imposed exile lasting 15 years, undertaken to avoid lese majeste charges.

Jakrapob Penkair posted on Facebook yesterday:

“At 7.35 am on March 28, I will return to serve Thailand.”

The ex-minister, who served under the administration of former PM Samak Sundaravej, was forced to step down in May 2008 amidst accusations of defaming the monarchy stemming from a speech he delivered at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on August 29, 2007.

Despite the case against him being dropped by the public prosecutor in September 2011, the turbulent political landscape saw Jakrapob facing renewed scrutiny following the 2014 military coup. The junta-led National Council of Peace and Order revived charges against him, culminating in a warrant for his arrest for defiance against the ruling military.

Adding fuel to the fire, allegations in 2017 implicated him in possessing firearms linked to past political unrest, further complicating his legal standing, reported The Nation.

As the nation braces for his return, speculation runs rife about potential legal repercussions awaiting the erstwhile political talk show host, who once served as the government spokesman for Thaksin Shinawatra and held the role of PM’s Office minister under Samak’s tenure.

In related news, a court in Nakhon Si Thammarat officially declared activist Surachai Danwattananusorn missing, igniting concerns over his fate after years of silence since his exile in Laos in 2018.

The ruling, delivered on Monday, February 12, grants his wife, Pranee Danwattananusorn, the authority to handle his assets, shedding light on the ordeal endured by his family in the absence of any trace of him.

In other news, Amnesty International Thailand urged the Pheu Thai-led administration to immediately free political activist Arnon Nampa, who stands accused of insulting the monarchy. Despite facing serious threats from Thai conservative groups, the pressure mounts for his release.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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