Wait­ing for the next move

Bangkok Post - - SPOTLIGHT -

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

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