Former Thai premier Yingluck flees ahead of verdict

Aug 26, 2017, 01:20
Former Thai premier Yingluck flees ahead of verdict

Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra has fled overseas, sources say, ahead of a verdict in her trial over a rice subsidy scheme.

Thai deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan said on Friday that it was possible former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has fled the country, just hours after she skipped a court hearing.

Before Yingluck's trial kicked off, some had speculated whether she would follow her brother's footsteps and leave the country. "She might have had help from some officials".

The rice subsidy plan Yingluck oversaw paid farmers about 50 percent more that they would have made on the world market.

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In 2016, Yingluck pledged to see through her trial, and said that she had not considered leaving the country. "We think the defendant is hiding or has fled". A planned string of aggressive prosecutions against Yingluck was clearly created to terminate her political career once and for all.

The former PM has always denied the charges against her and claimed the trial is politically motivated.

Ignoring her plea, thousands of peaceful protesters showed up outside the court holding roses and wearing white gloves with the word "love" on them. But Yingluck left everyone surprised by not turning up at the court, citing her sudden illness.

Last month, Yingluck herself openly acknowledged her need for public support, writing on her Facebook page, "I would like to transform your moral support into a power that would make me strong and tolerant".

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Police had set up barricades and a checkpoint outside the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said the administration wanted to avoid trouble.

But she stepped out of his shadow, displaying a unexpected resilience as protesters besieged her home and opponents clobbered her with a raft of court cases.

This insistence was repeated as late as yesterday, when her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng told reporters Yingluck would definitely be in court. "She is now in Singapore, but I don't know how long she will stay there or where her next destination might be", one source told the German DPA agency, asking not to be named. It remains to be seen who will replace her as party leader, and what will happen when the military's ban on political activities is lifted ahead of a general election - which is not expected to be before the fourth quarter of 2018. Ms Yingluck's billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was prime minister between 2001 and 2006, escaped nine years ago before the conclusion of a graft case. "Will she still say that she didn't get justice?" Critics say they were effectively a means of vote-buying, while Yingluck supporters welcomed them.

A Bangkok court sentenced a former Thai commerce minister to 42 years in jail on Friday after finding him guilty of falsifying government-to-government rice deals between Thailand and China.

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Hundreds of her supporters had gathered outside the court on Friday where about 4,000 police had been deployed.

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