Prawit confirms Yingluck fled far from neighbouring countries.
FORMER prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has left Thailand and is unlikely to be in any of the neighbouring countries, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan confirmed hours after the Supreme Court issued a warrant for her arrest yesterday.
He said authorities of Singapore, where Yingluck was rumoured to have flown to, had told their Thai counterparts that she had not entered that country.
“We don’t know exactly in which country Yingluck is now,” General Prawit said.
Prawit, who is in charge of the police force, said he would not dismiss a high-ranking police officer rumoured to have helped Yingluck flee the country.
There was speculation that the former prime minister could have fled to Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai.
A security source said Yingluck went to Koh Chang in the eastern seaboard province of Trat and flew in a helicopter to Phnom Penh, from where she reportedly took a chartered plane to Singapore. She was accompanied by a senior state official who helped facilitate her departure without having to pass proper immigration process, according to the source.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions yesterday issued an arrest warrant for Yingluck after she failed to turn up for the verdict reading in the negligence case against her over her government’s rice-pledging scheme. The court postponed the verdict reading to September 27 and ordered the seizure of Yingluck’s Bt30-million bail.
Red-shirt leaders and Yingluck’s lawyers yesterday said they were unaware of her whereabouts. However, a senior figure from her Pheu Thai Party said she had fled the country on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.
Requesting anonymity, the senior source in the Shinawatras’ political party said, “It’s impossible she left without the military’s green light.”
Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intarasombat yesterday said the ruling junta National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) should also be held responsible for Yingluck’s escape.
“Did the NCPO let her escape? She was still in the country a day or two before. In the next 24 hours, she must be arrested. If she can’t be arrested, the NCPO will get into trouble,” the politician said.
Deputy national police chief Pol General Srivara Rangsibhramanakul yesterday said he has ordered police searches of Yingluck’s houses in Bangkok and in the provinces after an arrest warrant for her was issued. Court permission was needed for police to conduct searches.
Srivara said police have not had confirmation from any neighbouring country that Yingluck had fled there.
Yingluck’s mobile phone signals were detected as coming from her house in Bangkok’s Bueng Kum area, according to a police source.
After news of Yingluck’s no-show, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he assigned authorities to check her whereabouts. “I have assigned officials to check the borders and transit points to find out where she is,” he said.
Immigration Bureau commissioner Pol Lt-General Nathathorn Prousoontorn said there was no indication that Yingluck sought to leave the country through the normal immigration procedure.
“I affirm that, up to now, there is no record of Yingluck leaving the country via any immigration checkpoint, including those at the airports and on the borders,” Nathathorn said.
He said the former prime minister has been prohibited from leaving the country since May 19, 2015, when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions accepted the state lawsuit against her.
He said if Yingluck had left on a private jet, a record of the flight would have appeared in the Immigration Bureau’s online database. However, had she left discreetly via a land border, the bureau would have no record of it, he acknowledged. He said the last time Yingluck was known to have left Thailand was in late 2014, when she travelled to Japan.
In 2008, Yingluck’s elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra also opted to leave the country before the same court sentenced him in absentia to two years in jail for abuse of power while serving as prime minister. He has lived in self-exile overseas while retaining his influence in Pheu Thai and Thai politics.
Analysts say if both siblings are now in exile, their time in Thailand’s political arena is over, AFP reported.
“It is the end of the Shinawatras and the Pheu Thai Party in politics,” said Puangthong Pawakpan, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.
“With two family members as fugitives, the family loses political legitimacy,” she said, adding that Yingluck’s departure would be welcomed by a junta weary of the prospect of her political martyrdom in jail.
Assoc Prof Adisorn Naowanont, a lecturer at Rajabhat Nakhon Ratchasima University, said that with Yingluck’s escape he expected Pheu Thai to become weaker and the ruling junta to remain in power for at least seven to eight years, as it would get backing from more and more political parties.
Meanwhile, former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij expressed surprise that Yingluck failed to show up for the verdict. “I’m surprised she has fled, as she has a chance of being acquitted,” he said.
Korn, a senior Democrat Party politician, also said he disagreed with the Finance Ministry’s move to seize Yingluck’s assets in order to pay for the cost of the controversial subsidy programme.
Asset seizure should be undertaken via the trial process, in the same way the Supreme Court had done in the case of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, he said. The ministry’s order for asset seizure could be seen as a political ploy by the junta government, the ex-minister added.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, expressed relief after Yingluck did not turn her up for the Supreme Court verdict reading yesterday. “Political confrontation would lessen after Yingluck did not show up at the court, and this would improve the political climate,” he said.
Looking forward, the private sector expects political stability, he added.
He also said that foreign investors were not much concerned about yesterday’s verdict but they were more worried about whether it was safe to live in Thailand and whether they could make a profit.