Waiting for the next move
Many “ifs” are hanging over former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has not been heard from since Aug 25, when she skipped an appointment with the Supreme Court to hear her fate in her ricepledging trial.
It marked a strange conclusion to a threeyear court battle, in which Ms Yingluck has stood accused of looking the other way to alleged corruption in her government’s ricepledging programme.
Throughout the trial, Ms Yingluck did not miss a single cross-examination, repeatedly giving her word she’d show up for the verdict. But when the fateful day came, she asked to be excused on account of suffering from Meniere’s disease, which causes vertigo.
The unceremonious no-show disappointed many observers and fans, hundreds of whom had turned up bright and early outside the court to wish her moral support. The court has rescheduled the ruling to Sept 27.
But Meniere’s is a chronic disease, and Ms Yingluck seemingly exhibited no such symptoms in her public appearances during or after her premiership.
A media frenzy ensued, with speculation swirling over her whereabouts.
Theories abound that she has absconded to Dubai to be reunited with her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has lived in self-imposed exile after fleeing the country in an apparent bid to avoid a two-year prison stint in the Ratchadaphisek land case.
Observers have mused she is taking temporary refuge abroad to see how the Sept 27 ruling pans out. She might also need time away from the country to figure out her next move should the ruling prove unfavourable.
But a source close the matter said she is more likely in Montenegro, a Balkan country which granted Mr Thaksin a passport.
The source added that Mr Thaksin has purchased a mansion in Montenegro, where Ms Yingluck might choose to reside if she finds it to her liking.
A life in idyllic Montenegro would be in sharp contrast to her frantic life back home, as she was thrust onto the national stage, and ultimately the premiership, with a nudge from her brother.
But if she has, in fact, fled and the court finds her guilty in absentia, her journey could well be a one-way ticket.
The new charter does allow an appeal to be made, although she would have to file it in person. Any jail term handed down would be suspended until she returns to Thailand to serve it.
The scenarios are not thrilling for Ms Yingluck, and if she does not plan on coming back, her final destination might be Britain, where she could have a compelling reason for having a political asylum application accepted.
According to the source, Ms Yingluck could cite several reasons to justify an asylum claim. But of course, the application would be submitted only after Sept 27, assuming she does not think the law will be on her side.
The source said it might be hard for the government to justify the use of Section 44 to the international community if Mrs Yingluck indeed files an application for asylum.
Yingluck: Thought to be in Montenegro