THE CRIMINAL case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra for her role in the rice-pledging scheme technically closed on Friday when neither Yingluck nor the prosecutor submitted an appeal, her lawyer and the prosecutor both confirmed yesterday.
Yingluck, who is reportedly in the United Kingdom, was sentenced to five years in jail for her negligence in preventing corruption and irregularities in her government’s rice-pledging scheme before the 2014 coup.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders convicted her in absentia and announced her prison sentence on September 27. The law allows her to appeal within 30 days of the date of the verdict delivery, but she would have to launch the appeal in person from inside Thailand.
“We have not yet received contact from her, therefore we did not make any request to the court to extend the period of appeal,” said her lawyer Norawit Lalang. “As we did not make an appeal, the case is technically final.”
Yingluck fled the country a few days before the court had originally been due to deliver its verdict on August 25 and Norawit said he had received no contact from his client since then.
The court issued an arrest warrant following her failure to turn up in August and delivered its verdict in absentia when she again missed her court appearance on September 27.
State prosecutor Surasak Tritrattrakul said that since neither of the involved parties had made any appeals to the court, the case was now final and authorities would enforce the verdict to compel Yingluck to serve her sentence.
However, Yingluck’s location is still unknown, authorities have said. Local media reports, citing unnamed sources, have said she is in London, where her brother Thaksin Shinawatra has a home. While some reports said she was seeking political asylum in the UK, Thai officials were unable to verify the claim.
Police have said they have asked cooperation from Interpol to force Yingluck to be returned to Thailand to serve her sentence but there still remained no clear clues about her whereabouts.
The junta has shifted blame for her disappearance to a police officer. Pol Colonel Chairit Anurit of the Metropolitan Police allegedly drove Yingluck to Sa Kaew province on August 23 and has been dismissed from duty.
This follows a police fact-finding committee’s ruling that the officer committed a grave disciplinary offence. He had also committed a lesser breach of the code of conduct for illegal use of a vehicle, the committee ruled.
Yingluck is not the only person convicted in the controversial case – ministers in her cabinet and many senior government officials were found to be involved in the fraud, which cost the country hundreds of billions of baht.
Yingluck’s former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom was jailed for 42 years and former deputy commerce minister Phumi Saraphol was sentenced to 36 years.
Both men have submitted appeals to the court.