Thai King strips ex-PM Thaksin of royal title

This picture taken on 25 March, 2019, shows exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra posing for a portrait after being interviewed by Agence France-presse in Hong Kong. (Isaac Lawrence / AFP Photo)

The King of Thailand has revoked the royal decorations of billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, citing his conviction and "extremely inappropriate" flight from the country, according to an announcement published Saturday.

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 Phalang Pracharath for the right to form a government.

The billionaire said in an interview last week with Agence France-presse (AFP) that the election was "rigged".

Royal decorations recalled

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 ex-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 a coup three years later.

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

The monarch also sent jitters across the country in February after a party linked to the Shinawatras nominated Princess Ubolratana 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. - AFP