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Fugitive Thai ex-PM Yingluck in Dubai, aims for UK asylum: govt source

BANGKOK: Fugitive former Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra is in Dubai and may try to seek asylum in the UK, a junta source said today (Aug 26), after she fled the country to avoid a court ruling in a vanishing act that stunned many Thais.

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By AFP

Saturday 26 August 2017, 04:27PM


Thailand’s supreme court has issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

Thailand’s supreme court has issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

Yingluck, 50, was due to arrive at the Supreme Court yesterday morning (Aug 25) for the ruling in her trial for criminal negligence that could have seen her jailed for 10 years.

But she did not show up, wrong-footing the court and her supporters alike as she wrote a dramatic closing chapter to the 16-year political saga of her mega-rich Shinawatra family.

Speculation swirled today on the whereabouts of Thailand’s first female prime minister – and her possible escape route.

The government source, who is well-placed in the security hierarchy, gave a detailed description of her escape, saying she took a private jet from Thailand to Singapore and onto Dubai, the base of Shinawatra family patriarch Thaksin, who is Yingluck’s older brother.

“Thaksin has long prepared [an] escape plan for his sister... he would not allow his sister to spend even a single day in prison,” the source added, requesting anonymity.

“But Dubai is not Yingluck’s final destination,” the source said, adding she may be aiming “to claim asylum in Britain”.

Thaksin, who once owned Manchester City football club, owns property in London and spends significant amounts of time in the city.

The Shinawatra’s political network remained tight-lipped today in a media blackout that only served to heighten speculation over her dash from Thailand and the likelihood of a possible deal with the government to allow her to leave.

A senior source inside the family’s Pheu Thai party, also requesting anonymity, today said that Yingluck had fled the country for Dubai a few days before the ruling.

The Shinawatra political dynasty emerged in 2001 with a series of groundbreaking pro-poor welfare schemes that won them elections but rattled Thailand’s royalist, army-aligned elite, who battered successive governments linked to the clan with coups, court cases and protests.

Yingluck’s government was toppled by a coup in 2014 and she was put on trial over negligence linked to a costly rice subsidy that propped up her rural political base.

New Paths Retreat

Thaksin, Yingluck’s elder brother, has been based partly in Dubai since he fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction. He was toppled from power by a 2006 coup.

Thai newspapers reported that Yingluck fled through a land border to Cambodia, flew to Singapore and on to Dubai, perhaps two days before her court date.

It was a disappearing act that appeared to surprise even her family – an elder brother and sister waited at the court for her arrival alongside thousands of supporters.

Shinawatra loyalists expressed sympathy with her shock move, saying the ruling would have been predetermined as her case was politically motivated.

“If she has fled abroad it is because this set of judges are appointed by the military and do not come from a democratic system,” Surachet Chaikosol, 59, a ‘Red Shirt’ activist said.

“I am glad she will not suffer in jail.”

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha yesterday denied knowledge of Yingluck’s whereabouts and expressed surprise at her no-show “as she always insisted that she would fight the case”.

Analysts say Yingluck, who was closely monitored by Thai security services, most likely cut a deal to exit the country.

The decision to flee helps her avoid being jailed under a Thai government that pressed for her trial and diminishes the possibility of pro-Shinawatra protests.

The Supreme Court will deliver its ruling in absentia on September 27.

 

 

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Christy Sweet | 27 August 2017 - 12:40:19

I'm very glad  the erstwhile PM Yingluck  has made this choice. The current govt meant to railroad her right into prison and with the astoundingly severe terms meted out just this week to the deputies, I'm sure her future would have been spent in prison for life.

Foot | 27 August 2017 - 05:41:39

There's no way anyone expected her to actually stay in Thailand.  Why all the distress now that she's left?

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