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Thailand: Yingluck Shinawatra Fled to Dubai


Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra fled to Dubai ahead of the verdict in her trial over a rice subsidy scheme, members of her party have said.

Puea Thai Party sources said Yingluck Shinawatra left Thailand last week.

It was revealed on August 25 that Yingluck Shinawatra, who is charged with negligence, had gone abroad but the destination was not known.

When the former prime minister failed to appear in court, an arrest warrant was issued and her bail was confiscated.

Dubai is where her brother, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, lives in self-imposed exile. He went there to avoid a 2008 jail sentence for corruption.

“We heard that she went to Cambodia and then Singapore, from where she flew to Dubai. She has arrived safely and is there now,” a senior member of the Shinawatras’ party told Reuters.

Deputy national police chief General Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul said police had no record of Yingluck Shinawatra leaving the country and were following the matter closely.

Image source Wikimedia

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Thailand’s Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said Yingluck Shinawatra’s location would “be clear soon”.

Judges have postponed the negligence verdict until September 27.

Yingluck Shinawatra, 50, has denied any wrongdoing in the rice subsidy scheme, which cost Thailand billions of dollars.

If found guilty at the end of the two-year trial, the former prime minister could be jailed for up to 10 years and permanently banned from politics.

Yingluck Shinawatra’s lawyer had requested a delay in the ruling, telling the Supreme Court that she had vertigo and a severe headache and was unable to attend.

However, the court said in a statement that it did not believe she was sick as there was no medical certificate, and that the alleged sickness was not severe enough to prevent her travelling to court.

The statement said: “Such behavior convincingly shows that she is a flight risk. As a result, the court has issued an arrest warrant and confiscated the posted bail money.”

Yingluck Shinawatra posted $900,000 bail at the beginning of her trial.

Thailand’s first female prime minister was impeached in 2015 over the rice scheme by a military-backed legislature, which then brought the legal case.

The scheme, part of Yingluck Shinawatra’s election campaign platform, was launched shortly after she took office.

It was aimed at boosting farmers’ incomes and alleviating rural poverty, and saw the government paying farmers nearly twice the market rate for their crop.

However, it hit Thailand’s rice exports hard, leading to a loss of at least $8 billion and huge stockpiles of rice which the government could not sell.

Though it was popular with Yingluck Shinawatra’s rural voter base, opponents said the scheme was too expensive and open to corruption.