Thailand has no plan to revoke passports of former PM Yingluck, minister says

PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - Thailand has no immediate plan to revoke the passports of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, after she fled the country last week ahead of a court verdict in a negligence case.

Yingluck, 50, was elected Thailand's first female prime minister in 2011 and is the sister of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

She skipped Friday's hearing, stunning thousands of supporters gathered at the Supreme Court, with senior party members having said she fled to Dubai. The government has not confirmed where she is.

Yingluck holds two Thai passports, one regular and another diplomatic, and is also thought to hold a third, foreign one.

"The issue has not reached the foreign ministry yet," foreign minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters when asked if the ministry would revoke her passports.

"This foreign minister is not yet handling this."

Reuters could not contact Yingluck on Tuesday.

A foreign ministry spokesman said he could not confirm whether Yingluck held a foreign passport.

Her brother Thaksin holds a Montenegrin passport. He was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled Thailand to avoid a 2008 jail term for graft related to a land case he called politically motivated.

He has a home in Dubai but travels frequently, particularly to Singapore and Hong Kong, to meet his three children and grandchildren, members of the Shinawatra family have said in social media posts.

Yingluck was forced to step down days before a May 2014 coup, after a court found her guilty of abuse of power. She faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme that was a flagship policy of her administration.

The plan bought rice at above-market prices and was popular with farmers in the north and northeast, regions that have historically supported the Shinawatras.

Critics denounced the scheme as an expensive exercise in shoring up electoral support in the countryside.

It led to unsold rice stocks of as much as 18 million tonnes, caused Thailand to lose its crown as the world's top rice exporter and led to losses of $8 billion, the ruling military government says.

Aides say Yingluck, who pleaded innocent to the negligence charge, left Thailand after receiving information that she would be given a heavy sentence.

The Supreme Court will now deliver its verdict on Sept. 27.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also head of the junta and led the 2014 coup against Yingluck's government, said Yingluck could rally the opposition from abroad.

"I'm worried because people still give importance to her," Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok's Government House.

The military government has promised to hold a general election next year.

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