The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) reaffirmed yesterday that its decision on former PM Yingluck Shinawatra's request to travel overseas should be postponed until there is a court verdict in the rice-pledging case.
Prosecutors are set to take her to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders for failing to stop corruption and causing huge losses to the state.
NCPO secretary-general General Udomdej Sitabutr, who also serves as Army Chief, said the council realised that Yingluck's request to travel overseas had drawn immense public interest.
Hence, it consulted with concerned agencies and presented the information to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to make a decision, Udomdej said.
"We all agree that Yingluck's overseas trips should be postponed, pending the court's decision on the issue.
We would like ensure nobody who is cooperating is inconvenienced and if her leaving the country affects the case, which has also attracted public attention, then her trip should be postponed," he said.
Even though the government and NCPO have the power to make a decision on Yingluck's request to leave the country, he said, as soon as the rice-pledging scheme case enters the justice system, all parties have to respect due process otherwise the issue would only snowball.
The NCPO has rejected her request to visit Hong Kong, China and the UK, and she cannot leave the country until February 22 as she will be required to appear in court.
The Office of the Attorney-General said it will indict Yingluck for criminal offences in relation to the rice-pledging scheme by February 21.
Yingluck has been charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission with failing to stop corruption and allowing losses of many billions of baht.
Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also deputy PM, yesterday cited prosecutors' concerns about letting Yingluck travel overseas - that her leaving may affect the case.
Yingluck's lawyer, however, responded by saying she had every right to leave the country as prosecutors had not yet filed the case.
The lawyer said all charters guarantee the rights and liberty of suspects facing criminal litigation.
He added that if the court accepted the case, it would require that the suspect only be present on the first day of the hearing, not the day the indictment is filed in court.
Former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he agreed that Yingluck was entitled to leave the country because the case has not been brought to court.
Anyway, he said, she had no plans to escape the justice system.
Surapong also insisted that Prayut and the NCPO had the power to decide on whether Yingluck can leave the country.