Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra fled the country ahead of a verdict against her in a negligence trial filed by the junta that overthrew her, sources close to the Shinawatra family said yesterday.
Yingluck, 50, whose family has dominated Thai politics for more than 15 years, failed to show up at court for judgement in a case centered on multibillion-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 a member of the Shinawatra family’s Puea Thai Party.
The sources did not say where she was now.
The Thai 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,” Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.
Yingluck’s lawyer, Norrawit Lalaeng, said her team had yesterday morning told him that 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, although the junta has largely snuffed out open opposition.
The Supreme Court said the verdict would be given on Sept. 27.
Yingluck last made public comments on Thursday, saying on Facebook 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 yesterday gathered outside the court, where about 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.
In a related case yesterday, the Supreme Court sentenced Yingluck’s former minister of commerce Boonsong Teriyapirom to 42 years in jail after finding him guilty of falsifying government rice deals between Thailand and China in 2013.
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