Thailand set to issue arrest warrant for former prime minister

Judges to decide ex-PM Yingluck's fate tomorrow

Yingluck Shinawatra departed the Thai political scene with a dramatic flourish befitting her roller-coaster six-year journey from political novice to premier - finally falling victim to the army-backed establishment who loathe her family. This political connection between Yingluck and her supporters could be put to good use had she been imprisoned. "We think that the defendant is hiding or has fled", said a statement from a Supreme Court. On Thursday, Yingluck asked her supporters (via Facebook; she has six million followers) to stay away from the court.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court judges ruled that they do not believe Yingluck's illness as it was certified by any doctor, according to a public prosecutor attached to the Office of Attorney General.

Reports said she was last seen in Bangkok on Wednesday.

This insistence was repeated as late as yesterday, when her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng told reporters Yingluck would definitely be in court. But Yingluck and her aides have insisted she respects the justice system and would contest her charge to the end.

Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said security forces had not allowed Yingluck to leave and are checking possible routes she may have used if she did.

The youngest sister of Mr Thaksin, she was seen by her opponents as a proxy for her brother, who was controversially ousted by the military in 2006.

Mr Thaksin has lived in Dubai since fleeing a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated.

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Thaksin's ouster triggered years of upheaval and division that has pitted a poor, rural majority in the north that supports the Shinawatras against royalists, the military and their urban backers.

Resentment against the rice policy led to street protests starting in 2013, and Yingluck was eventually ousted by a coup in 2014.

"I think it is clear enough that politics is involved in the Yingluck trial", said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

At the hearing on Friday, Yingluck's lawyer said she was ill, but did not produce a medical certificate.

She posted a message on her Facebook page urging followers to stay away, saying she anxious about their safety.

Thousands of supporters were expected to turn up outside the Supreme Court in northern Bangkok for the ruling, raising the spectre of confrontations with the police. The current regime has also accused Shinawatra of trying to buy votes by subsidizing farmers in the rural areas where her party dominates. Despite the negligence charges, Yingluck remains very popular with many Thai people.

Instead, other rice-producing countries captured the market by selling at competitive prices. If convicted, Yingluck has the right to appeal. The 75-year-old defended the Yingluck government's rice-subsidy scheme, and said that the former prime minister was "facing injustice" and being bullied.



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