Yingluck was sentenced in her absence by the Supreme Court for a rice subsidy scheme for farmers that reportedly cost the authorities US$8 billion.
Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister, who was prime minister between 2011 and May 2014, was ousted by a coup. The 50-year-old had no previous political experience.
It is suspected that she left via Cambodia and flew from Singapore to Dubai or London, where Thaksin owns property.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied reports that Yingluck travelled through the country but three Thai police officers are facing questioning in connection with allegations that they helped her escape.
Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha said her passport would be revoked although there is speculation that the military allowed Yingluck to leave to prevent a backlash from her supporters, who probably still form a democratic majority.
Prayuth said he knew where Yingluck was but would not give more details.
Yingluck’s former commerce minister and his secretary were given heavy jail sentences yesterday.
Thaksin, prime minister from 2001-06, was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for abuse of power after he had fled the kingdom.
The rice-subsidy programme delivered generous crop prices to Thailand’s farming communities, who provided the backbone of Shinawatra support, but it resulted in stockpiles of unsold rice decaying in warehouses.
Yingluck’s flight from justice was used as proof of her guilt, reinforcing the narrative that the Shinawatra clan is corrupt and driven by greed.
Yingluck’s supporters, who gathered outside the Supreme Court, dismissed her two-year trial as politically motivated.
“Her power was robbed. She helped grass-roots people through her policies, so I wanted to give her moral support,” factory worker Aree Sawangchai outside the court who wore a T-shirt saying, “No peace, no justice”.
Since 2001, every Thai general election has been won by Thaksin or his allies but judicial action and two coups have unseated each of these governments.
Happier times. Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra with then US president, Barack Obama in 2011. Picture credit: Wikimedia