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Thailand’s Former PM Has Fled Abroad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Supporters of ousted former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra wait for her at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Bangkok- Hundreds of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra had gathered outside the court, on Friday, where about 4,000 police had been deployed waiting for her arrival to be tried in a corruption case.

After Yingluck failed to show up, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant against her as it did not believe her excuse that she could not attend the court hearing because of an ear problem.

Yingluck, 50, whose family has dominated Thai politics for more than 15 years, failed to show up at court for judgment in a case centered on the multi-billion dollar losses incurred by a rice subsidy scheme for farmers.

“It is possible that she has fled already,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

Yingluck’s lawyer, Norrawit Lalaeng, said her team had told him on Friday morning she had an “ear fluid imbalance” and could not attend court. He said he was unaware whether she was still in the country.

A spokeswoman for Yingluck declined to comment.

Shinawatra has fled the country ahead of a verdict against her in a negligence trial, sources close to the Shinawatra family said on Friday.

Overthrown in 2014, Yingluck had faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

“She has definitely left Thailand,” said one source, who is also a member of her Puea Thai Party. The sources did not say where she had gone, according to Reuters.

Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who heads the political clan, was overthrown in a 2006 coup and fled into exile to escape a corruption conviction that he said was aimed at demolishing the populist movement he founded.

Many see that a verdict against Yingluck could have reignited tension, though the army has largely snuffed out open opposition.

The Supreme Court rescheduled the verdict to Sept. 27.

Under the rice subsidy program, Yingluck’s administration paid rice farmers up to 50 percent more than market prices. It left Thailand with huge rice stockpiles and caused $8 billion in losses.

Yingluck has said she was only in charge of coming up with the policy but not the day-to-day management of it.

The Supreme Court sentenced Yingluck’s former commerce minister, Boonsong Teriyapirom, to 42 years in jail after finding him guilty of falsifying government-to-government rice deals between Thailand and China in 2013.