Seeking political asylum might be the best solution for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, though it might not be the smartest, as all eyes are trained on her at the moment.
Recently, reports emerged that she might be trying to seek political asylum - a rumour that has turned everybody's attention on her and become a topic of heated debate.
After Yingluck was impeached by National Legislative Assembly (NLA) last month for negligence of duty and failure to stop massive corruption in the rice-pledging scheme, her case is now with the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. If the court finds her guilty, she could face a 10-year jail sentence, not to mention calls for her to personally foot the Bt600 billion or so lost in the scheme.
Judging by the severe penalties she stands to face if found guilty, clearly the best solution for her would be to flee the country and seek asylum elsewhere.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that everybody has the right to seek and enjoy persecution-free political asylum or refugee status in a country. Also, the 1951 Refugee Convention says that a person who fears being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion can seek asylum.
Yingluck obviously is a perfect fit for the criteria.
However, the problem is that she will soon face indictment, and if she waits until the verdict comes out, she may not be given an escape route because her case is related to non-political crimes.
Fleeing 'out of question'
However, a source from Pheu Thai Party insisted that the former premier was willing to face the charges and defend herself.
The source said she wants to wait and see if justice will serve her. Also, the source pointed out that she would at least wait till the battle arrives in court first.
"She has to wait for the testimony inquiries or at least the questioning of the conflicting parties to begin first, including the process of asking for witnesses and presentation of evidence. It is only after these processes have been started that we will see a sign of her decision on whether or not to seek political asylum," the source said.
Former Democrat MP Nipit Intarasombat said people should wait and see if she will stay and defend herself or flee.
"If the former premier is seeking political asylum, then it could benefit her reputation more if she's a refugee rather than a fugitive," Nipit, who is also a legal expert, said.
Two options on offer
He went on to say that a political asylum can only be sought after the person leaves their country and files a request with the UNHCR.
Alternatively, if the person is unable to leave the country, then he or she can ask for political asylum with the embassy of the country they wish to flee to.
However, Nipit said, this second method is more difficult because the person in question may end up having to live in the embassy for an extended period without being able to leave.
Political observers, meanwhile, believe that Yingluck's every move is being closely watched and there is no guarantee that she will be allowed to travel abroad because she first needs to ask the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for permission.
If she can't leave the country now, it means there's very little chance of her being able to seek political asylum.
Also, with the NCPO and |everybody else keeping a close |eye on her, making moves to flee may not be the smartest thing to do.
Who is eligible for asylum?
Who can get political asylum or refugee status under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
- Everybody has the right to seek and enjoy persecution-free political asylum or refugee status in a country;
- This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions that generally arise from non-political crimes.
Who can get political asylum or refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention?
- Someone who fears persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;
- Someone who is outside their own country and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country;
- People who are not protected by their own country and are forced to flee.