25 August 2017
Former Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was scheduled to appear at the Supreme Court in Bangkok today to hear the verdict in a controversial case that has been brought against her. The charges relate to a rice subsidy scheme established during her time in office. A guilty verdict could have seen her jailed for 10 years and permanently banned from politics. But in another twist in Thailand’s complicated political scene, the former Thai leader didn’t show up for her court appearance. Lawyers for Yingluck said she was unable to attend because she was ill and requested a delay in the ruling. The court refused, seized Yingluck’s 30 million Baht bail bond and subsequently issued an arrest warrant for her. In the meantime, the verdict has been delayed until September 27. Throughout the trial, Yingluck has maintained her innocence and says she is a victim in a political game. As the drama unfolded, news reports began to file through suggesting that Yingluck had left the country. Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon confirmed it was possible Yingluck had already left Thailand but denied suggestions that she may have been aided by security officials.
Yingluck Shinawatra became Thailand’s first female prime minister after leading the Pheu Thai party to a resounding election win in May 2011. She was ousted from office by a separate legal ruling in May 2014 and also found guilty of negligence by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). A few weeks after that, the military seized power in a coup and have held power in Thailand ever since. Yingluck’s older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was also prime minister of Thailand. He was removed from office by the military coup of September 2006. Thaksin now lives in self-imposed exile abroad and faces prison if he ever returns to Thailand.
Update September 27:
The Supreme Court ruled that Yingluck was guilty of criminal negligence and sentenced her in absentia to five years in prison. Latest reports suggest the former Thai PM is in Dubai.