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Politics

Yingluck's exodus may have been assisted by junta: Thai media

Her whereabouts a mystery, some say former PM has landed in Dubai

BANGKOK -- Local media in Thailand have been left to play a guessing game on the whereabouts of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, while no official confirmation of her location has yet been made by either the military government or the Shinawatra camp.

The consensus however is that the embattled political figure is no longer in Thailand.

Citing various sources, many outlets are saying that the military junta, which toppled Yingluck's government in a 2014 coup and has sought for years to weaken the influence of the Shinawatra family, assisted her escape.

Yingluck was expected to appear at the Supreme Court on Friday to hear the verdict of a criminal trial, in which she is accused of negligence over a rice subsidy program her government implemented. She did not arrive at the court, claiming she was ill. With no medical evidence the court decided to issue an arrest warrant.

Citing unnamed sources from the Shinawatra family and military government, the Bangkok Post, a major English language newspaper, reported on Saturday's front page that Yingluck had fled the country to Cambodia on Wednesday, two days before the scheduled verdict.

Similar sources have told the Nikkei Asian Review that the prime minister went to Singapore via Cambodia. Some media reported on Saturday that she traveled from there to Dubai where her elder brother, ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra resides.

Thaksin is in self-imposed exile after he fled the country to avoid corruption charges. His government was also ousted by a 2006 military coup.

Regarding the military's involvement, various news outlets said it would have been difficult for Yingluck, who had been under strict surveillance by the junta, to escape from the country without the knowledge of authorities. The newspaper Daily News cited a "national security source" to provide a detailed account of her escape to the border.

The source claimed she crossed the border in a van while escorted by another vehicle containing military soldiers. The source also said her escape was approved by a "high-ranking national security officer."

"It is not clear whether the junta turned a blind eye to this escape," local newspaper Komchadleuk said on its online version. "But what is clear is that they must be secretly happy that the prime minister is no longer here."

It said the absence of both Thaksin, who still boasts a large, enthusiastic fan base of farmers and low-income earners, and Yingluck, who inherited her brother's support base, will mean the weakening of the Shinawatra family's influence. "The possibility of the family leading the upcoming general election has come to an end," it said.

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