Bangkok, Thailand. On Friday, an arrest warrant was issued against the former Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The search is on for Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra after she failed to appear for a court verdict in a criminal case that could send her to prison for 10 years. The 50-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra’s trial is about a subsidy program for rice farmers that had led to losses of about $8 billion.
Yingluck Shinawatra reportedly fled from Thailand to Dubai. She allegedly escaped on Aug. 23 with her 15-year-old son over Singapore and flew from there directly to Dubai.
Yingluck, 50, who became Thailand’s first female prime minister when her party swept elections in 2011, is accused of negligence in overseeing a money-losing rice subsidy programme. She pleaded innocent and decried the charges as politically motivated.
A verdict had been expected on Friday as thousands of Yingluck supporters gathered outside the court and thousands of police stood guard. But she never appeared and a judge read out a statement saying her lawyers had informed the court she could not attend because of an earache.
The judge said the court did not believe the excuse, however, because no official medical verification was provided. He said a warrant would be issued for her arrest and announced the trial would be postponed until September 27.
Norrawit Larlaeng, Yingluck’s lawyer, said he had no details on her whereabouts. “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.”
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the military chief who engineered the 2014 overthrow of Yingluck’s government, said the junta was “looking for her”.
“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?”
The trial is the latest chapter in a decade-long struggle by the nation’s elite minority to crush the powerful political machine founded by Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a 2006 coup. Thaksin has lived in Dubai since fleeing a corruption conviction.
Yingluck’s former commerce minister was jailed in a related case for 42 years on Friday.
In the past, the UAE had been the destination for several politicians seeking refuge.
In 2003, shortly after a U.S.-led coalition toppled the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein, his former Minister of Information Muhammad Al-Sahaf, known as “Baghdad Bob” or “Comical Ali,” fled to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Bhutto relocated to Dubai after she lost elections in 1997, where she resided with her family until her return to her country in 2007.