Thai king strips former PM Thaksin Shinawatra of royal honors

King Maha Vajiralongkorn's order came just days after a contentious election that pitted pro-Thaksin parties against those supported by the military. Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Saturday revoked royal decorations for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

A palace statement said the decorations will be revoked over Thaksin's 2008 corruption sentence. The former premier, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, says the charges against him are politically motivated.

Thaksin lives abroad in self-exile. His sister Yingluck, who came to power on Thaksin's popularity in the rural parts of the country, was also overthrown in a coup in 2014.

The royal gazette document also described Thaksin fleeing the country as "highly inappropriate behavior."

The king's order came less than a week after disputed Thai elections. Thaksin told international media that the election results were rigged and there were several discrepancies with the electoral process. The former PM, however, said the anti-junta parties would try to form a coalition government.

Read more: Thailand election highlights a divided society

Some pro-democracy activists are accusing the Thai king of favoring the military and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

On the eve of the March 24 election, King Maha Vajiralongkorn recalled a comment by his late father on the need to put "good people" in power and to prevent "bad people from … creating chaos."

Read more: Thai king signs military-backed constitution

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

A Thai political dynasty with rural support

Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra is a wealthy businessman and former PM of Thailand. As founder of the Pheu Thai party, he was popular among rural poor, but unpopular among rich elite. In 2006, Thaskin was accused of fraud and ousted in a military coup. He fled Thailand in 2008 and faces two years in jail if he returns. Shinawatra-affiliated parties have won every Thai election since 2001.

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

Yingluck's rise into politics

As successor to her brother, Yingluck Shinawatra was elected as PM of Thailand in 2011. She enjoyed the popularity of Taskin's base but was also targeted by his opponents, who accused her of being a political proxy for her exiled brother. Before she was elected as Thailand's first female PM, she had never held a political position or government post.

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

The rice scandal

Yingluck's flagship policy, which helped her win the 2011 election, was a rice subsidy program aimed at her base where the government paid poor farmers 50 percent more for rice with the intention of providing a minimum wage. The plan backfired with regional competitors undercutting Thai rice exports, resulting in huge stockpiles and alleged losses to the state of $17 billion (14.25 billion euros).

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

Yingluck thrown out of office

In May 2014, Yingluck was ousted from office by the Thai constitutional court after it ruled she had abused power in transferring a senior aide to another position. This was combined with months of public protest against a proposed amnesty bill for those involved in violent protests after her brother was forced from power. The Thai military took power and they continue to rule the country.

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

Yingluck's supporters wear red

The "red shirt" protesters, who are loyal to the Shinawatra family, oppose Thailand's elite, royalist class backed by the military. Yingluck's supporters see the moves against her as an attempt to finally oust the family from power and eliminate its political influence in Thailand.

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

The royal loyalists in yellow

Loyalists to the Thai royal family, ruling elite and military are known as "yellow shirts." They say that the Shinawatras abuse their power for their own gain and accuse them of creating populist policies to attract the poor electoral majority in Thai society. They consider this a threat to the traditional ruling class. Multiple clashes between reds and yellows have resulted in dozens of deaths.

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

Yingluck follows her brother into exile

In 2015, Yingluck was charged with criminal negligence and dereliction for her role in the failed rice subsidy scheme. She was also impeached for the same charges, and not allowed to participate in Thai politics for five years. She fled Thailand in August 2017, before a ruling on her case was to be announced. In September 2017, she was sentenced, in absentia, to five years in jail.

Yingluck sentencing: The downfall of Thailand's Shinawatra family

Thailand's uncertain future

Thai politics has been dominated for over a decade by a power struggle between the traditional elite and the Shinawatra family. Political scientist Wolfram Schaffar told DW that the goal of pursuing the Shinawatras has been to "weaken elements of direct democracy." Other experts say that Yingluck's exile leaves Thailand without an opposition figure and allows the military to rule indefinitely.

shs/jlw (Reuters, dpa)