BANGKOK — Sept. 27, 2017: Thailand’s Supreme Court today found former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty in absentia for negligence in the controversial rice-pledging scheme and sentenced her to five years in jail.
Nine judges of the court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions announced the long-awaited judgement.
“Yingluck has been found guilty under Article 157 of the Charter for neglecting her duty to stop corruption,” Cheep Julamon, one of the judges, said.
The younger sister of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra did not attend court to hear the verdict. Her whereabouts remain a mystery since her failure to appear at a similar court proceeding last month.
Due to her no-show last month, the court postponed the verdict to today.
The government alleged that the scheme which was implemented during Yingluck’s administration had caused the state to suffer massive financial losses, a charge the former prime minister had consistently denied throughout her two-year trial.
Yingluck became Thailand’s first female prime minister in 2011 after winning the general election. She was ousted by the military in May 2014.
Her lawyer Norawit Lahlaeng, when approached by reporters after the verdict, said he needed to study the judgement before on an appeal.
“I need to look at the verdict carefully, to study for related laws, then we will talk about the appeal,” he said, adding that he had no knowledge whether his client knew of the verdict but guessed that Yingluck would learn about it from the media.
According to him, he had not been in contact with her since August 25 when Yingluck failed to appear in court and neither did he know of her current whereabouts, an issue widely speculated by the media.
Local and foreign media speculate that Yingluck is in Dubai where Thaksin owns a house.
Yingluck, according to sources within the government and her political party quoted by the media, slipped out of the country two days before the court was supposed to have delivered its verdict last month, allegedly heading to the Cambodian border and then to Singapore.
The government, which has since launched an investigation over her disappearance, arrested three police officers recently, including a colonel, on suspicion of having helped her to flee.
It also seized a Toyota Camry car suspected to have been used as Yingluck’s getaway vehicle.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that the government knew of Yingluck’s whereabouts and would reveal the information after the court delivered its verdict. — Bernama