BANGKOK - Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has full right to travel abroad, as her criminal case over the rice-pledging scheme has not been filed in court yet, her lawyer argued yesterday.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) rejected her request to go to Hong Kong, China and the UK from today till Feb 22, as she has to attend the court trial.
Her lawyer Norawit Lalang said the Office of the Attorney-General had decided last month to indict her at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders in connection with the rice scheme but the case has not yet to be filed.
In this situation, the prosecutors and the court had no authority to prevent Yingluck from going abroad, he said.
"In criminal litigation, suspects are innocent until proven guilty. All the charters of the country guaranteed the rights and liberty of suspects, even in Provision 4 of the interim charter,'' the lawyer said.
The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders had different legal procedures from other courts, he explained. The court did not require the presence of suspects when prosecutors file an indictment, citing as example the case against former premier Somchai Wongsawat.
Norawit also said that once the Supreme Court selects judges to hear the rice-pledging case, and if the judges decide to accept the case, then it would issue a summons to suspects to appear on the first hearing day.
"The NCPO's order may be in violation of charter provisions that protect the rights and liberties of suspects in criminal cases," Norawit said.
The NCPO and Army spokesman Winthai Suvari said they needed more time to consider Yingluck's request for permission to leave the country unlike her previous requests because the rice-pledging case was about to go on trial. "The NCPO may seek legal counsel from concerned agencies. We have to ensure convenience to those who seek permission but at the same time this should not affect the trial procedures,'' he said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday declined to comment over Yingluck's travel plan and the junta decision to prohibit her.
Reporters should ask the media that had reported about the junta's decision about Yingluck's plan, said Prayut, who is also head of the NCPO.
Yingluck had planned to leave for Hong Kong yesterday.
Her rival and leader of the Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva said the junta might have adequate reasons to prevent the former premier from travelling. As Yingluck's case had not been submitted to the court, the junta had full authority to control her movement, he said.