Yingluck flees Thai­land be­fore court ver­dict: source

For­mer PM’s where­abouts un­known

Global Times - Weekend - - TOP NEWS -

Ousted Thai prime min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra has fled the coun­try ahead of a ver­dict against her in a neg­li­gence trial brought by the junta that over­threw her, sources close to the Shi­nawa­tra fam­ily said on Fri­day.

Yingluck, 50, whose fam­ily has dom­i­nated Thai pol­i­tics for more than 15 years, failed to show up at court for judg­ment in a case cen­tered on the multi-bil­lion dol­lar losses in­curred by a rice sub­sidy scheme for farm­ers.

Over­thrown in 2014, Yingluck had faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

“She has def­i­nitely left Thai­land,” said one source, who is also a mem­ber of the Shi­nawa­tra’s Puea Thai Party. The sources did not say where she was now.

The Supreme Court is­sued an ar­rest war­rant after say­ing it did not be­lieve her ex­cuse that she could not at­tend the court hear­ing be­cause of an ear prob­lem, but there was no sign of po­lice show­ing up at her house.

“It is pos­si­ble that she has fled al­ready,” Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Prawit Wong­suwan told re­porters.

Yingluck’s lawyer, Nor­rawit Lalaeng, said on Fri­day that her team had told him on Fri­day morn­ing she had an “ear fluid im­bal­ance” and could not at­tend court.

He said he was un­aware whether she was still in the coun­try. Her spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment.

Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, who heads the po­lit­i­cal clan, was over­thrown in a 2006 coup and fled into ex­ile to es­cape cor­rup­tion charges that he said were aimed at de­mol­ish­ing the pop­ulist move­ment he founded.

The strug­gle be­tween that move­ment and a Bangkok-cen­tered roy­al­ist and pro-mil­i­tary elite has been at the heart of years of tur­moil in Thai­land.

The ver­dict against Yingluck was widely seen as hav­ing the po­ten­tial to reignite ten­sions, though the junta has largely snuffed out open op­po­si­tion. The Supreme Court said the ver­dict would now be de­liv­ered on Septem­ber 27.

Yingluck last com­mented on so­cial me­dia on Thurs­day, say­ing on her Face­book page that she would not be able to meet sup­port­ers at court be­cause of the se­cu­rity mea­sures.

She had been banned from trav­el­ing abroad at the start of the trial in 2015 and has at­tended pre­vi­ous hear­ings.

Hun­dreds of Yingluck sup­port­ers had gath­ered out­side the court on Fri­day where around 4,000 po­lice had been de­ployed. Some held roses while oth­ers wore white gloves with the word “love” on them.

If Yingluck fled it would dis­ap­point her sup­port­ers and make her op­po­nents feel vin­di­cated, said Thiti­nan Pong­sud­hi­rak, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Se­cu­rity and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity.

“It does not help with Thai­land’s divi­sion and po­lar­iza­tion,” he said.

Un­der the rice sub­sidy pro­gram, Yingluck’s ad­min­is­tra­tion paid rice farm­ers up to 50 per­cent more than mar­ket prices. It left Thai­land with huge rice stock­piles and caused $8 bil­lion in losses.

Yingluck has said she was only in charge of com­ing up with the pol­icy but not the day-to-day man­age­ment of the scheme.

Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chanocha, who led the coup against Yingluck’s gov­ern­ment in the name of end­ing po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, has promised that an elec­tion will be held next year.

Yingluck had been banned from pol­i­tics for five years in 2015 by the junta’s leg­is­la­ture for al­leged graft in the rice-pur­chas­ing pro­gram.

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