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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Former Thai PM Yingluck's whereabouts 'unknown'

'We don't know where Yingluck fled and whether she has asked for asylum anywhere,' defence minister Prawit Wongsuwan said on Monday

A supporter holding a photograph of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra who reportedly fled after failing to appear at the Supreme Court to receive the verdict of a case where she stands to accused of criminal negligence to stop corruption in her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme. Rungroj Yongrit/EPA
A supporter holding a photograph of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra who reportedly fled after failing to appear at the Supreme Court to receive the verdict of a case where she stands to accused of criminal negligence to stop corruption in her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme. Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

Thailand's defence 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 verdict in her trial for negligence at which she faced up to 10 years in prison.

Ms Yingluck, whose government was ousted in a 2014 coup, reportedly fled to Dubai via Singapore, sources in her Puea Thai Party said on the weekend. Her departure leaves the populist movement that has dominated Thai politics for more than a decade without a leader.

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

Ms Yingluck was often followed by plain-clothes police, her aides said. During a provincial tour last year men in military uniform would often follow her 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?" Mr Prawit's answered when reporters asked him that on Monday.

Police intelligence showed Ms Yingluck was still in her Bangkok home at least up until 2pm on Wednesday, deputy national police chief General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said without elaborating.

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Read more:

Thai junta under fire over Yingluck's disappearing act

Thailand's former PM Yingluck has fled to Dubai, say senior party members

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An arrest warrant has been issued for Ms Yingluck, 50, who had been due to appear 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 US$8 billion (Dh29.4bn).

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

Reuters could not reach either Mr Thaksin or Ms Yingluck for comment on Monday.

Ms 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.

Defence ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tanatravanich said he was confident Ms Yingluck was no longer in Thailand.

"We have to see first which country she's in. The security side is working on this," Mr Kongcheep said.

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 Ms Yingluck from fleeing.

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

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