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Jailed former Thai PM Thaksin gets parole, capping a reconciliation with military that ousted him

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who last year returned from more than a decade of self-imposed exile to serve a prison sentence for misdeeds committed while in office, has been granted parole and could be released this weekend, the country’s justice minister announced Tuesday.

Parole for Thaksin would be a symbol of reconciliation between his populist political party and the country’s conservative establishment, a rivalry that defined Thai politics for nearly 20 years and led to two military coups.

Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong told reporters ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Bangkok that Thaksin qualified for early release because he is in the eligible category of inmates who have serious illnesses, are disabled or are aged over 70. Thaksin is 74 years old.

Tawee did not confirm the date that Thaksin will be released, but it is widely expected he could be released as soon as this weekend.

He is currently confined to a police hospital in Bangkok where he is serving time for convictions related to corruption and abuse of power while in office, convictions he decried as politically motivated.

Opponents have charged that serving his sentence in a hospital was a special privilege, suggesting that it was part of a part of a political deal between his party and the military.

Thaksin had been in exile since 2008, but voluntarily returned to Thailand in August last year and reported to prison to begin serving an eight-year sentence. He arrived back in his homeland the same day Srettha Thavisin of the Thaksin-backed Pheu Thai party secured the post of Prime Minister with the support of military-linked parties.

He was moved almost immediately to the hospital on grounds of ill health and