Update August 25, 2017

Dhaka 8-36 am, 13-May, 2021

Thai ex-PM Yingluck skips court, arrest warrant issued

Mirajul Moin Joy

Supporters of former Thai Premier Yinluck Shinawatra gathered at the Supreme Court in Bangkok to catch a glimpse of the ousted PM, but she did not show up (AFP Photo/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

25 August 2017, Nirapad News: Thailand’s ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra missed a court appearance in a negligence trial on Friday that could have seen her jailed, prompting the Supreme Court to issue an arrest warrant and the kingdom’s junta to step up border controls.

Thousands of supporters — outnumbered by security forces — waited from dawn for a glimpse of Thailand’s first female prime minister, but she did not show, prompting fevered speculation that she may have joined her billionaire brother Thaksin in self-exile.

“Her lawyer said she is sick and asked to delay the ruling… the court does not believe she is sick… and has decided to issue an arrest warrant,” fearing she may flee the country, lead judge Cheep Chulamon told the court, rescheduling the verdict to September 27.

Thailand is deeply divided between the Shinawatras and their political base, which is mainly drawn from the rural poor, and a royalist army-aligned elite, who loathe the clan and refuse to cede power to democratic governments.

Yingluck’s government was removed by a military coup in 2014.

If convicted for negligence over a flagship rice subsidy policy, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a life ban from politics.

“I just learned that she did not show up (at court),” junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha told reporters.

“I have ordered border checkpoints to be stepped up,” he said, including local and major routes out of the country.

Mystery over Yingluck’s whereabouts was compunded by a parade of lawyers who brushed off suggestions that she has already fled the country — possibly to Singapore.

“I was told at 8am that she was sick from Meniere’s disease and felt vertigo, so she asked the court to postpone,” her lawyer Norawit Larleng, told a throng of reporters outside the court.

He added “I don’t know,” when asked whether she was still in Thailand.

Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra also a former premier, fled Thailand in 2008 before he was convicted of graft and handed a two year jail term.

He has not returned since and his Thai passport has been revoked. He is believed to use a Montenegrin passport to travel between homes in Dubai, London, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thaksin remains a galvanising force for his party and a canny political operator.

The clan have clung on in Thailand’s treacherous political game for more than a decade despite two coups, deadly protests, a cascade of legal cases and asset seizures.

A conviction — and jail — for Yingluck, 50, would be a gut punch to the Shinawatra political dynasty.

— Billionaires and generals —

Yingluck’s flagship rice subsidy poured cash on her family’s rural political heartland, paying up to twice the market rate for the grain.

But it was beset by graft and led to billions of dollars of losses.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying she is the victim of a “subtle political game.”

To many supporters Yingluck is finally emerging from her elder brother’s shadow, drawing on a star quality throughout her 18 month trial absent amongst the gloomy cast of ageing generals who rule Thailand.

Rumours of her flight were met with understanding from supporters who lingered outside the court.

“The Thai prime minister has done her best, she has sacrificed a lot,” said 64-year-old Seksan Chalitaporn.

“Now the people have to fight for themselves.”

If she has escaped, some of Yingluck’s enemies will rue the chance to convict and sentence a leading figure from a dynasty accused of graft and nepotism.

In a Facebook post on Thursday Yingluck asked her followers to stay home to avoid any incidents stoked by people with “ill-intention against the country and us”.

The Shinawatra family emerged as a political force in 2001 when billionaire patriarch Thaksin swept to power.

He jump-started the economy and provided the most extensive pro-poor welfare schemes in Thai history.

But critics accused him of using political power to further his business interests.

He remains loathed by the Bangkok royalist elite but cherished by the rural poor.

A coup toppled him in 2006 and he fled overseas.

Historically the Shinawatras have been able to mobilise huge crowds of supporters — known as the “Red Shirts” — to take to the streets when the family’s political fortunes have waned.

But three years of repressive junta rule has successfully quashed any widespread opposition to the military for now.

The country’s democratic future also looks bleak, with a junta-scripted constitution severely cramping the power of any future elected governments.

The junta has trailed elections for next year, but the timetable has repeatedly slipped.

Visitor's Comment: ( The authorities are in no condition responsible for any comments of the reader)