Yingluck Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister of Thailand, may have fled the nation in a bid to escape a guilty verdict.
Shinawatra is on trial for corruption – a charge that’s been levied on her by the junta that overthrew her.
Shinawatra was the first female Prime Minister of Thailand. Hailing from a wealthy family, she was a businesswoman before she turned to politics. Her brother Thaksin Shinawatra also served as the Prime Minister of the nation. His tenure, which lasted from 2001 to 2006, came to end with a military coup. He fled the country and has lived in self imposed exile to avoid his sentence in prison.
Shinawatra became the Prime Minister of the country in 2011. She was nominated by the all-powerful Pheu Thai Party to be their candidate. Even though she won by a landslide by 2013, there were mass protests against the government. At the time she asked for the dissolution of the Parliament triggering an election and she continued on as the caretaker-Prime Minister. In 2014, the Constitutional Court of Thailand removed Yingluck Shinawatra from the office. She had been found guilty of abusing her power.
The case that Shinawatra is currently on trial for involves a rice subsidy scheme that she introduced while she was the Prime Minister. Farmers under this scheme were paid close to twice the market rate for their crops. Critics of Shinawatra said that through this scheme the government gave away billions of dollars to its voter base. According to the current leadership, the losses incurred due to this scheme amounted to £6 billion.
Multiple media reports, including Reuters and BBC, have noted that the former Prime Minister may have fled the country in order to avoid the trial. The BBC has revealed that this decision to leave was made unexpectedly, according to members of her own political party.
A statement from the Supreme Court of the country read, “We don’t think that the defendant is ill. We think that the defendant is hiding or has fled ... We have pushed back the verdict date to 27 September. She asked for sick leave not to show up today.”
Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the junta has announced that the government has established checkpoints. Chan-ocha said, “I just learned that (Yingluck) did not show up. I have ordered border checkpoints to be stepped up,” he said, including local and major routes out of the country.
Prior to her court date, Shinawatra had taken to her Facebook account to reach out to her followers and supporters. She said, “I want all of you to give me support by staying home and monitoring the news to avoid any risk of an unexpected incident by people with ill-intention against the country and us.”
Our assessment is that if Yingluck has evaded the country, then it will reflect poorly on her political party and on the thousands of people who have supported her. This could trigger widespread violence in the nation between those her supporters and critics.