Thailand's ousted PM Yingluck Shinawatra has fled overseas

The head of Thailand's immigration police chief said he believed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra remained in the country after a Supreme Court judge raised suspicion that she had fled after she failed to show up on Friday for the verdict in a negligence case.

Some Thai media earlier reported that a auto believed to carry Yingluck was seen at the court as her followers were chanting her name to the vehicle and thus assumed she was there, but she did not show up as expected.

Thaksin left Thailand in 2008 just before the Supreme Court sentenced him to two years in prison for conflict of interest, in which his then wife bought state land in Ratchadaphisek area of Bangkok during his tenure as prime minister.

This insistence was repeated as late as yesterday, when her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng told reporters Yingluck would definitely be in court.

A verdict had been expected to be delivered within hours in the case, which the court postponed until September 27.

A former Thai minister also charged in connection with the rice subsidy scheme was jailed for 42 years on Friday.

Yingluck - ousted by a military coup in 2014 - had been barred from leaving Thailand without court approval since 2015, when her trial started. However, the court was not provided with medical documentation and believed she intends to flee.

Though popular with her rural voter base, opponents said the scheme was too expensive and open to corruption.

Historically the Shinawatras have been able to mobilise huge crowds of supporters - known as the "red-shirt movement" - to take to the streets when the family's political fortunes have waned. Even some of her supporters rebelled, arguing that people who killed civilians would end up going free.

On Thursday evening, she had warned her supporters via social media platforms not to go to Court, as she feared for their safety.

"I don't know Yingluck's whereabouts".

Shortly before the military coup in 2014, a Thai court ordered Yingluck's removal from office, finding her guilty of violating the country's constitution in her reassignment of a senior security official in 2011. "We think the defendant is hiding or has fled". One year later, she was impeached by the military-appointed legislature over the controversial rice scheme, which saw the government paying farmers almost twice the market rate for their crop. For those of a more generous mindset who recognise the political can of worms the military seized, Yingluck's persistent presence will be a thorn in the side of a country in much need of political and social reform.

Her flagship rice subsidy poured cash on her family's rural political heartland, paying up to twice the market rate for the grain. She will not leave her people. She is also eligible for bail pending appeal.

Their Pheu Thai party has - under various different names - won every election since 2001. Suu Kyi's incarceration earned her the title of a democratic icon and she became the symbol of struggle against Myanmar's military rule.

  • Leroy Wright