Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thailand: Update--Ousted Former PM Yingluck Shinawantra, 47, Authorized to Travel to France

According to Reuters, Thailand's military junta have given permission to ousted former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 47, to travel to Europe where she is expected to attend the birthday party of her brother, Thaksin, also a deposed former PM, military officers said on Thursday (July 17).

A military spokesman said Yingluck, forced from office by a court ruling days before the military seized power in May, was permitted to leave provided she abstained from politics. He said she would be allowed back into Thailand at the end of her trip.

"Yingluck has not done anything that violates our orders so her personal trip to Europe has been approved," said Thai Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree.

Several hours later, the national anti-corruption agency said it would forward a criminal case against Yingluck, related to a rice-purchasing scheme that has since become a national scandal, to the attorney general. If the case is forwarded to a court and she is found guilty, Yingluck could face time in jail.

COMMENT: Earlier, General Teerachai Nakwanit, army commander for the region which includes Bangkok, told REUTERS that Yingluck was expected to attend the 65th birthday party in France this month of Thaksin Shinawatra, 65, who was removed as PM in a 2006 military coup.

Thaksin has lived in self-exile since 2008 to avoid serving a sentence for corruption.

For six months prior to the May coup, Thailand was convulsed by establishment-backed protests aimed at ousting Yingluck, who became Thailand's first female prime minister when she was swept to power in a 2011 election.

At least 30 people were killed in sporadic violence over the six-month period of unrest during which the Thai economy was adversely effected.

Yingluck, 47, has been under investigation by Thailand's anti-corruption agency over a rice-buying program which offered farmers a price well above market value.

Wicha Mahakun, a member of National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said the agency would forward her case to the attorney-general who would consider whether to pursue criminal charges against Yingluck for dereliction of duty.

The scheme was at the heart of her government's populist policies, but caused huge financial losses to the government. 

The military junta is conducting nationwide inspections of rice warehouses to assess the extent of corruption related to the rice scheme.