A THAI court is seeking an arrest warrant for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra after she failed to appear to hear the verdict in her long-running negligence trial on Friday.
It is currently unknown if Yingluck is still in Thailand or if she has fled.
“At 8 am, Yingluck’s team contacted me to say it had told the court she could not show up because of an ear fluid imbalance,” Yingluck’s lawyer Norawit Lalaeng told reporters.
“In the past one to two days, I have not had direct contact with Yingluck, but have contacted her team.”
When asked whether Yingluck was still in Thailand the lawyer replied: “I don’t know.”
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said he could not confirm whether Yingluck was still in Thailand.
“She could be at any hospital … she could be ill. It’s not clear whether she has fled,” he told reporters. “Yingluck has many homes and many cars. It is difficult to track her.”
The head of immigration police, Nanthathorn Prousoontorn, told Reuters he believed she was still in the country and would be arrested when she was found.
The court set a new date of Sept 27 for the verdict. The court said Yingluck, who had pleaded not guilty in the case focused on a rice subsidy scheme for farmers, had told the court she could not attend as she was suffering from an ear problem.
“We don’t think the defendant is ill. We think the defendant is hiding or has fled … We have pushed back the verdict date to Sept 27,” a statement from a Supreme Court judge said.
“She asked for sick leave not to show up today.”
Yingluck faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted and a life ban from politics under the new military-drafted constitution.
Fearing a guilty verdict could lead to violent protests, the government had ordered more than 4,000 police and army officers to surround the court and warned against demonstrations.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Yingluck also asked her followers to stay home, fearing people with “ill intentions” might cause trouble against them.
“I want all of you to give me support by staying home and monitoring the news to avoid any risk of an unexpected incident by people with ill intention against the country and us,” she said, as reported by The Guardian.
Thousands of supporters had massed outside the country’s Supreme Court on Friday morning to witness the outcome of the trial.
Yingluck was ousted as PM in a military coup in 2014. Her brother, Thaksin, was also toppled by military generals in 2006 and forced into exile to avoid a 2008 graft allegation.
The Shinawatra family remains popular with many of Thailand’s rural poor, but is hated by many of the royalist and military elite in Bangkok.
Additional reporting by Reuters