Yingluck Shinawatra 'flees' ahead of a court verdict

The former Thai prime minister may have escaped via the Cambodian border, Thai police say

Arrest warrant issued for former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra
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Yingluck Shinawatra left Thailand ahead of a Supreme Court verdict in a negligence trial brought by the junta that overthrew her, sources close to her family told Reuters.

The 50-year-old former prime minister faces ten years in prison for negligence over a rice subsidy programme that cost the government billions of dollars.

While Thai broadcaster PBS said Yingluck Shinawatra could not attend court because of an ear infection, CNN and Reuters said she was on the run.

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“She has definitely left Thailand,” Reuters said, citing a source in her Puea Thai Party.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters that police were investigating reports Yingluck had left via Koh Chang, an island close to the Cambodian border. The Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant and rescheduled the verdict to 27 September.

If Yingluck has fled, her opponents would feel feel vindicated. “It does not help with Thailand’s division and polarisation,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.

Thaksin Shinawatra, her brother, was overthrown in a 2006 coup and fled into exile to escape a corruption conviction. The struggle between the Shinawatra family's political movement, the Bangkok-centered royalists and the pro-military elite has caused years of turmoil in Thailand.

Arrest warrant issued for former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra

25 August

A Thai court has issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra after she failed to appear in court to hear the verdict in her long-running trial on negligence charges.

Yingluck, who was deposed in 2014 during a military coup, was charged in connection with a botched rice-buying scheme, which cost Thailand billions of dollars.

She "faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted and a life ban from politics under the new military-drafted constitution," The Guardian reports.

Her lawyer told the court that she was too ill to attend, but he "did not provide a medical certificate, leading the court to refuse the excuse", says CNN.

The Supreme Court said: "We don't think that the defendant is ill. We think that the defendant is hiding or has fled."

Judges reschduled the verdict hearing for 27 September and ordered Yingluck to forfeit her bail of 30 million baht, about £700,000.

"Unlike her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled the country and was convicted in absentia on corruption charges," says the New York Times, "Yingluck has remained in Thailand and fought the charges against her."

Thousands of police had been deployed in response to fears that a guilty verdict would lead to violent protests. Despite the negligence charges, Yingluck remains very popular with many Thai people.

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