US envoy 'unaware' of Yingluck's asylum report

US envoy 'unaware' of Yingluck's asylum report
Ousted former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Lawyer denies Yingluck is fleeing, says it's like she's 'under detention'

THE US charge d'affaires said yesterday he was unaware of reports that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was seeking asylum in the United States and declined to comment on the matter.

"I have not heard of any report about that.

I am not going to comment on that issue," said Patrick Murphy, the top official at the US Embassy in Bangkok in the absence of an ambassador.

Murphy also reiterated that the United States does not take sides in Thai politics.

"As a friend, we simply want Thailand to succeed.

Thailand's success and return to democracy is success for Southeast Asia and a success for global challenges.

We are not taking sides at all," he said.

The US diplomat spoke to reporters after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Yutthawong to discuss bilateral cooperation.

He repeated the US call for Thailand to return to democracy, restore civil liberties and end martial law "sooner rather than later".

Murphy and Yongyuth did not discuss reports about Yingluck seeking asylum during their meeting yesterday, they both told reporters.

Yingluck's lawyer Norawit Lalaeng yesterday accused the former PM's opponents of attempting to discredit her by spreading false rumours that she would flee the country before facing criminal charges in court next week.

"If she had a plan to escape, she would not have publicly asked for permission to go abroad.

The opposition is trying to make out that she wants to flee abroad in order to discredit her," Reuters quoted Norawit as saying.

Security officials appear to be monitoring Yingluck's recent movements although the government denied ordering security officials to keep a watch on her because of fear she might flee the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan had earlier said that the authorities simply wanted to ensure that Yingluck was safe and secure.

Prawit, who is also defence minister, said yesterday that Yingluck, as well as other VIPs in the country, were given increased security in order to prevent any untoward incident.

"We all are afraid and do not want anything bad to happen," he said when asked if the government was worried about any third party.

However, Yingluck's lawyer Norawit said that in his opinion, the military's close monitoring of the ex-PM was more like a house arrest.

"It's not direct detention but it's like an indirect detention.

This is a violation of personal rights and a limitation of liberties," the lawyer said.

Yingluck, who now lives in her home city of Chiang Mai, reportedly cancelled her participation in a Valentine's Day school reunion after being followed by local military officers.

Her former schoolmates offered Yingluck words of encouragement through their group's Line chat room.

Yingluck responded with the words, "Patience, my friend," according to a source.

Yingluck will be followed by military officers where ever she goes in the country as part of security measures for the former prime minister, Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

He denied this was a threat, saying that similar security measures were also in place for other VIPs, including the prime minister.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has not granted Yingluck's request to leave the country at a time when a court case is pending against her in connection with her government's rice-pledging programme.

The Office of the Attorney-General will submit a subpoena to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on February 19, and it wants Yingluck to be present on that day.

However, Yingluck's legal team has not decided whether to seek her presence before prosecutors, Norawit said.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is also the NCPO leader, said on Tuesday night that public prosecutors had requested that the junta not allow Yingluck to leave the country while a court case against her was pending.

In a related development, the Army held a briefing for military attaches from 25 countries about Thailand's post-coup political situation, at Army headquarters yesterday.

In an eight-point explanation, the Army stressed that progress was being made in accordance with the junta's road map for the country's return to democracy.

The military attaches also were told that the impeachment and legal action against Yingluck were not politically motivated, NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said.

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