After Yingluck Shinawatra failed to show up at court for a verdict hearing, Thailand's Supreme Court said it will issue an arrest warrant for the former prime minister. Sources close to her say Shinawatra has fled the country.
Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has fled the country ahead of a verdict against her in a negligence trial brought by the junta that overthrew her, sources close to the Shinawatra family said on Friday.
Yingluck, 50, whose family has dominated Thai politics for more than 15 years, failed to show up at court for judgment in a case centred on multi-billion dollar losses incurred by a rice subsidy scheme for farmers.
Overthrown in 2014, Yingluck had faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Thailand's Supreme Court said it will issue an arrest warrant for the former prime minister after her no show.
A judge read out a statement saying that Shinawatra's lawyers had informed the court she could not attend because of an earache.
But the judge said the court did not believe the excuse because no official medical verification was provided, and the court would issue a warrant for her arrest as a result.
Shinawatra had fled the country, sources close to her said.
"She has definitely left Thailand," one of the sources, who is also a member of the Shinawatra's Puea Thai Party said.
A second source also said she had gone, without giving details of her current whereabouts.
Thailand's junta chief on Friday ordered border checkpoints to be beefed-up after Shinawatra failed to turn up at the court.
"I just learned that she did not show up [at court]," Prayut Chan-O-Cha told reporters.
"I have ordered border checkpoints to be stepped up," he said, including local and major routes out of the country. Thailand's prime minister said it is possible Shinawatra had already left the country.
TRT World spoke to Tazkira Sattar in Bangkok.
Rice subsidies scheme
The rice subsidies, promised to farmers during the 2011 election, helped Shinawatra's party ascend to power.
Critics say they were effectively a means of vote-buying, while Shinawatra supporters welcomed them.
The scheme in which farmers were paid up to twice the market rate for their crops allegedly benefitted many of her supporters.
"The rice scheme helped farmers. Farmers had money to circulate in their life," said Udomrak Janma, her supporter.
But others have been calling for her to be exiled.
"We have to make sure that Yingluck is no longer in Thailand," said Siriam Chumsri.
TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury has more.
Shinawatra's supporters maintain her innocence
A verdict had been expected to be delivered within hours in the case, which the court postponed until September 27.
Shinawatra pleaded innocent and decries the charges against her as politically motivated.
If convicted, she has the right to appeal.
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 Shinawatra's brother, Thaksin, who was toppled in a 2006 coup.
Thaksin, who has lived in Dubai since fleeing a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated, has studiously avoided commenting on his sister's case, apparently to avoid imperiling it.
Fearing potential unrest, authorities tried to deter people from turning out Friday by threatening legal action against anyone planning to help transport Shinawatra supporters.
Shinawatra also posted a message on her Facebook page urging followers to stay away, saying she worried about their safety.
Hundreds of them gathered in any case, outside the court where around 4,000 police had been deployed. Some held roses while others wore white gloves with the word "love" on them.