Yingluck leaves Thailand for holiday in Paris, but some doubt she will return at all

With her green blouse peeking out from under a striped jacket and fingers firmly gripped around her young son's hand, deposed Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra flashed a ready smile for the waiting crowd of journalists at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Wednesday night.

She was on her way to Paris after being granted permission by the ruling junta to holiday overseas.

Some doubt she would return at all, given that she faces charges of negligence upon her return over a controversial rice purchase scheme administered by her government.

"When will you come back?" the reporters asked as they surrounded her outside the Thai Airways reception area for first class passengers.

"I'm going to rest first. Let's talk when I get back," she said, before being ushered away by her minders.

Some local media reported that she checked in 15 pieces of baggage, although it could not be confirmed whether they belonged to just her or the larger group that she was travelling with.

Ms Yingluck, 47, was booted out by Constitutional Court on May 7 for abuse of power over the wrongful transfer of a senior official in 2011.

Two weeks after her ouster, the remaining members of her caretaker Cabinet were deposed by a military coup.

She was summoned and detained by the military after the coup as the junta swiftly suppressed opposition to its takeover throughout the country.

A few days later, she was released, on condition that she not take part in any political activity.

She has kept a low profile since, except on July 18, when she held a press conference to accuse the national anti-graft body of being unfair and hasty in its decision to charge her with negligence. She also brushed off suggestions that she was about to flee.

"I will never abandon my Thai brothers and sisters, and shall return to Thailand," she said.

Throughout her 2½-year premiership, she could not shake off allegations that she was a proxy of her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was the premier of Thailand until ousted by a military coup in 2006.

Political parties led or backed by Thaksin have won every election in the past decade as he commands devotion in the populous north and north-east of Thailand.

His critics - who hail largely from the urban middle class and royalist establishment - say his electoral dominance is derived from corruption and ruinous populist schemes.

These were the same criticisms levelled against Ms Yingluck's Puea Thai party-run government as protesters took to the streets for seven months prior to the coup - and even sabotaged the Feb 2 general election - to topple her.

Through it all, she refused to step down, asserting that she was duty-bound as a democratically elected premier to make way only to a counterpart installed by election.

On Wednesday night, there were just a handful of well-wishers who turned up to see her off, unlike on May 7, when crowds gathered outside her temporary office after she was felled by the charter court.

Ms Yingluck's flight took off at five minutes past midnight. By early yesterday afternoon, Thai social media was abuzz with a picture of her being embraced by Thaksin on arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Brother and sister are expected to celebrate his 65th birthday tomorrow.

Officially, she is due to return by Aug 10. The big question, until then, is whether she will choose to go into exile, just like her brother.

'I'm going to rest first. Let's talk when I get back' - Deposed Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra

This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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