Whereabouts of former Thai PM Yingluck unknown, defense minister says

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2017 12:56 AM

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's defense minister on Monday said he did not know the whereabouts of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, days after she failed to show up for a negligence ruling at which she faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Yingluck, whose government was ousted in a 2014 coup, fled to Dubai via Singapore, sources in her Puea Thai Party said at the weekend. Her departure leaves the populist movement that has dominated Thai politics for more than a decade leaderless.

Her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in 2006 and also fled Thailand to avoid a 2008 jail sentence for corruption, has a home in Dubai.

"We don't know where Yingluck fled and whether she has asked for asylum anywhere," Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also a deputy prime minister, told reporters.

"We haven't asked for her extradition yet."

Yingluck was often followed by plain-clothes police, said her aides. During a tour of some Thai provinces last year men in military uniform would often follow the former prime minister as she greeted supporters.

Critics are now asking how a person under close scrutiny by security forces could leave the country without being noticed.

"How should I know?" was Prawit's response to reporters who posed questions on the issue on Monday.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Yingluck, 50, who was due at the Supreme Court on Friday to hear a verdict in a case against her, involving a rice buying scheme introduced by her government that lost an estimated $8 billion.

A former commerce minister in her government was jailed for 42 years on Friday for falsifying government-to-government rice deals over the same scheme.

Reuters could not reach either Thaksin or Yingluck for comment on Monday. Yingluck, who is usually active on social media, has not posted on her Facebook page since Thursday, when she told supporters she would see them at the court.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association to Protect the Thai Constitution political group, said he would file a complaint on Monday with the National Anti Corruption Commission over what he called government officials' failure to prevent Yingluck from fleeing.

By mid-morning on Monday Janya had not yet filed the complaint.

Sentencing in Yingluck's case has been moved to September 27 and will be delivered in absentia.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by)