Police set up team to hunt Yingluck after 'easy' escape

Police set up team to hunt Yingluck after 'easy' escape
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

Interpol to assist as anti-corruption activist accuses authorities of negligence.

Amid a flurry of blame, accusations and speculation, authorities remain unable to explain how former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was so easily able to escape justice.

Anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Junya yesterday lodged a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission, asking it to investigate the failure of top security officers to prevent Yingluck from fleeing the country.

Srisuwan focused on Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who oversees security matters, and police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda, accusing them of being negligent in their duties.

Prawit, who is also Defence Minister, said the activist has the right to do so, but reiterated that the authorities had no way to prevent Yingluck from fleeing the country.

"How could the authorities know when and where she would flee? Who would know it?" Prawit said at the Defence Ministry, in response to a reporter who pointed out that the authorities had closely monitored Yingluck's movements even when she went to temples to make merit.

The former premier had always complained that security officials and spies followed her everywhere.

"Yingluck's escape was unexpected because she earlier always insisted that she would not flee. And there were police in front of her house all the time," Prawit said.

The authorities still have no official explanation as to how Yingluck failed to show up at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions last Friday. Her whereabouts since have been the subject of intense speculation by the media, activists and observers.

The court has postponed the verdict delivery to late next month, and has issued an arrest warrant, but nobody has a clear answer as to whether she will return to Thailand. Police have set up a team to track her, and the relevant agencies have been closely following movements around border areas, including natural land borders.

Officers had been instructed to report the results of the operation every five days, deputy national police chief Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said.

Police in Lat Phrao have been instructed to check all the surveillance cameras around Yingluck's house as well as her other residences in Bangkok and her hometown of Chiang Mai, but they have failed to find her, Srivara said.

Speculation denied According to Srivara, Yingluck was last seen in her Bangkok home at 2pm on Wednesday. Officers from Lat Phrao Police Station, who were responsible for supervising Yingluck's residence, said other people in the house had confirmed that she no longer lived there.

Royal Thai Police will now seek the co-operation of Interpol to alert police forces in 190 countries around the world about Yingluck's current legal status. Media citing unnamed sources reported that she had fled via Cambodia and Singapore to Dubai to join her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who has a home there.

The government in Phnom Penh dismissed the report, and authorities in Dubai also said they know nothing about Yingluck's whereabouts. Pol Maj-General Apichart Suriboonya, head of the police foreign affairs division, said the police had contacted officials in Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates but had received no information.

Apichart told reporters about normal procedures, saying that Interpol could take "quite some time".

If any member of Interpol located Yingluck, Thai police could seek an international arrest warrant to have her apprehended. However, it would be up to Interpol how the case was conducted.

Like everybody else, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday denied speculation that the National Council for Peace and Order deliberately let Yingluck slip out of the country, saying it was beyond his expectation that she would flee.

"I didn't think it would happen. In the morning [of the verdict], I still thought that she would go to court, following the procedure. I respected her," Prayut said.

Bombarded with questions about the incident, Prayut said furiously: "Who would let her flee? How come, why did you think like this?"

Prayut said he had instructed security officers to find out how the former premier left the country. They would also look at flaws in the process in order to prevent it happening again.

Prayut, who is also the head of the junta, said it was difficult for the authorities to follow Yingluck |before the court had made its judgment because they respected her privacy.

Officers had been criticised over their possible violation of human rights, Prayut noted, adding that that had made everything difficult.

Prayut said he didn't want people to blame the security officers, saying that the media should tone down its criticism. It would be "insane" if officers intentionally let her flee, he said.

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