Former Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra fled to Dubai Friday instead of appearing to hear a verdict in her criminal trial, according to members of her political party.
A military coup deposed Shinawatra’s government in 2014 and put her on trial soon after. She faced 10 years in prison for losing the country an estimated $17 billion by granting subsidies to rice farmers, a campaign promise that propelled her to victory in the 2011 election, the Associated Press reported Friday. Officials within Shinawatra’s political party say she fled the country to Dubai, despite her lawyers telling the court she was simply home with an earache, CNN reported.
“I was told this morning that she was ill, that she had vertigo, that she felt dizzy, so I requested the postponement. That’s all I have to say,” her lawyer, Norrawit Larlaeng, said.
Thousands of Shinawatra’s supporters, matched in number by police, had gathered outside the supreme court building to hear her verdict, but a judge delayed the court’s announcement until Sept. 27.
The new prime minister, Military Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters that the government was “looking for her,” but that he had no record of her leaving the country. He also expressed dismay at her decision to skip the verdict.
“If she’s not guilty, she should stay and fight the case,” Prayuth said. “If she’s not here, what does that tell you? Will she still say that she didn’t get justice?”
Shinawatra is the second prime minister in her family to flee to Dubai rather than face a criminal conviction. Her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, had established the family’s divisive political dynasty only to be overthrown himself. He now lives in Dubai, where he fled following a corruption conviction in 2006.
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