THAILAND’S Supreme Court has sentenced former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to five years jail after finding her guilty of negligence in a trial brought by the junta that overthrew her.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the nine judges were still delivering the verdict on Wednesday when news of the sentence leaked to Thai media.
Yingluck dramatically fled the country a month ago after failing to show up at court for the verdict. She was rumoured to be in Cambodia, however, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied those rumours. Three senior policemen have been investigated but not charged for allegedly helping her escape in a car with counterfeit plates.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who overthrew Yingluck in a 2014 coup, said on Tuesday that he knows where the ousted former prime minister is but refused to disclose her location until after a verdict was delivered.
Reuters has reported she is living in Dubai with her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister toppled in a 2006 coup, who lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence on corruption charges.
Yingluck, who pleaded not guilty in the case, was found guilty of negligence for the mismanagement of a rice subsidy scheme that saw Yingluck’s government buy rice from farmers at above-market prices in an attempt to manipulate the global grain market.
The program collapsed as neighbouring countries increased production and stockpiles of rice rotted in Thai warehouses. The military claims it caused US$8 billion in losses.
The verdict has the potential to reignite tensions between the ruling military junta and those who still support the Shinawatra family. However, only 50 members of Yingluck’s so-called “red shirt movement” showed up outside the court on Wednesday, a dramatic drop in numbers from previous hearings.
Prayuth has urged Thais to remain calm over the case that has essentially ended the political dominance of the Shinawatra family, whose movement won the last five general elections, making it the most dominant force in Thai politics for more than a decade.
Additional reporting by Reuters