NEW LEGAL procedures for political office holders that come into effect today could reduce the chance that fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will launch an appeal.
However, her lawyer yesterday rejected concerns about the impact of the new law for his client, saying they would act in accordance with the law.
The new organic act was published in the Royal Gazette yesterday, with significant implications for an appeal in Yingluck’s case relating to her government’s rice-pledging scheme.
Although the law allows politicians to appeal Supreme Court verdicts, it requires defendants to present themselves to the court in person when they submit petitions. The rule would also apply to Yingluck, according to Meechai Ruchupan, chief charter drafter, who also drafted the law.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders on Wednesday ruled that the former prime minister was guilty of negligence in the government-to-government rice deal and handed down a five-year jail term without suspension.
Under the new law, Yingluck would need to come out of hiding if she wanted to fight the case, making her vulnerable to arrest.
Yingluck fled the country shortly before the first court verdict reading, which was set for August 25. She is reportedly in Dubai, according to top state officials, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Meechai said the new law also prescribed exemptions of the statute of limitations if a convicted individual was on the run, meaning she would have to be on the run entire life if not appealing.
Yingluck’s lawyer, Norawich Larlang, told The Nation that he had not yet heard from Yingluck and no decision had been made whether to appeal.
Norawich added that he was not concerned about the new requirement for Yingluck to submit a petition in person.
He said he “does not think it makes things more difficult. [The defendant] has to do as the law tells them”, he said, without elaborating further.
Suebpong Sripongkul, spokesman for the Courts of Justice, said the new charter gave a convicted political office holder a greater opportunity to fight in an appeal.
They could appeal either the facts of the case or on the basis of a legal technicality, rather than just on the grounds of “new evidence”, Suebpong said.
In regards to damages in the case, Noppadol Laothong, another Yingluck lawyer who oversees the civil lawsuit on her behalf, said the fact that Yingluck had been ruled not guilty in the implementation of the policy could mean that she did not have to pay compensation of Bt35 billion demanded by an administrative order.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said concerned parties must study the verdict before proceeding with asset seizures under the order. Wissanu said the verdict was for a criminal charge against her and should have nothing to do with the asset seizure.
At this point, the Legal Execution Department’s actions have been limited to freezing Yingluck’s accounts. The department had been waiting to see whether the Administrative Court would rule against the order as petitioned by Yingluck, he said.
In the court verdict readin on Wednesday, the panel of judges meeting before the verdict reading took two separate votes on whether she was guilty and what penalties were appropriate.
Eventually, the panel of nine members voted eight to one that Yingluck was guilty of malfeasance before voting unanimously to give her a five-year jail term that would not be suspended.
According to sources familiar with the Supreme Court, Pison Pirun, president of the Supreme Court’s Juvenile and Family division, was the only judge to propose that the former prime minister was innocent.