State news agency Tanjug reported yesterday (Aug 8) that the Serbian government granted her the citizenship “because it could be in the interest of Serbia”. Serbian officials did not comment on the reason behind the decision, reported AP.
A government decree confirming Yingluck was granted citizenship was published in June in Serbia’s official gazette, AP also noted.
With the Serbian passport, Yingluck can travel visa-free to over 100 countries, including most members of the European Union.
Yingluck furtively slipped out of Thailand while it was still under junta rule in August 2017, just days before she was convicted of running a rice subsidy scheme that was riddled with corruption and cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
She and her supporters say the trial was a witch-hunt led by a junta keen on rooting out her family’s political influence.
By skipping bail, she went to London via Dubai, where billionaire brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra resides in self-imposed exile after fleeing Thailand also facing corruption charges.
AFP reported that news of Yingluck’s Serbian citizenship started breaking as local Serbian magazine Nedeljnik published an image of a government document dated June 27 that said Yingluck had “obtained Serbian citizenship”.
It appeared to be signed by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.
A Serbian government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yingluck’s spokersperson could also not immediately be reached.
Yingluck’s billionaire brother and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra is also living in exile to avoid a graft conviction after he was toppled in an earlier 2006 coup.
The siblings are beloved by Thailand’s rural poor and posed the top electoral challenge to the country’s traditional royalist elite.
Several years ago, Thaksin was granted Montenegrin citizenship and now splits his time chiefly between London and Dubai.
Since fleeing Thailand Yingluck has been seen around the globe, from London to Dubai, Hong Kong and Japan, among other places.
Her current whereabouts remains unknown, AP noted in its report.