Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced in absentia Wednesday to five years in prison by the Supreme Court after it found her guilty of negligence of duty for mishandling a rice subsidy project that caused massive losses.
Her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has lived in exile in Dubai since he was overthrown in a 2006 military coup.
The Supreme Court convicted her of mishandling the scheme which allegedly cost Thailand at least $8 billion.
Yingluck, who inherited the leadership of Thaksin's political machine and was elected prime minister in 2011, became a proxy target for his enemies as well. Today, police officer Pol. Col. Chairit Anurit, a deputy commander with Bangkok's Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB), came forward to say that he drove the former Thai leader in a Toyota Camry to the border at Srakaeo, a town that borders Cambodia, in Si Saket province, the night before she was to appear in court to face corruption charges related to her rice-pledging scheme, reported Thai PBS. However, there is widespread speculation that the ruling junta and Yingluck had a deal for her to avoid prison, which risked making her a martyr in the eyes of her supporters.
Once a fresh arrest warrant is issued, Thai authorities may proceed with extradition efforts, he told reporters.
Around a dozen police from the forensics unit entered the large compound carrying gloves and metal boxes, to be met by a lawyer for Yingluck and one of her bodyguards.
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But she had already fled the country amid reports she is either in Dubai or London.
Thaksin's Puea Thai Party did not comment to Reuters on Prayuth's disclosure that Yingluck was in Dubai. She denies all charges of negligence and fled the country before the verdict.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the coup, said Thailand would pursue Yingluck through diplomatic channels and police cooperation using Interpol.
Unable to beat the Shinawatras at the polls, their rivals have turned to court rulings and coups to repeatedly knock their governments from power.
They believe his popular appeal, earned by populist policies benefiting the less well-off rural majority, threatened the traditional ruling class' privilege.
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