Thai army chief tells how ex-leader may have fled

AFP
Fugitive Thai former premier Yingluck Shinawatra discarded her mobile phones and stopped traveling in her usual vehicles in the days before last week’s dramatic escape.
AFP

Fugitive former premier Yingluck Shinawatra discarded her mobile phones and stopped traveling in her usual vehicles in the days before last week’s dramatic escape, Thailand’s army chief said yesterday.

Yingluck, whose government was toppled by the military in 2014, staged a disappearing act before a scheduled court judgment last Friday in a criminal negligence trial.

She faced up to 10 years in prison and a lifetime ban from politics if convicted.

Thailand’s government has come under fire over Yingluck’s disappearance, with many questioning how the authorities could have let her flee given that she was heavily monitored.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisad offered insights into how military intelligence kept track of Yingluck and how she may have slipped the net.

“As of now we learned that she abandoned all of her phones and changed her cars so it was hard to trace her using the same methods we did before,” he said, confirming military intelligence had previously used electronic and physical surveillance.

But Chalermchai said officers had recently been withdrawn from guarding the front of her Bangkok house. 

“The public alleged that it was violating her personal rights and intimidating her so we withdrew the force,” he said.

Yingluck frequently complained of being constantly followed by military intelligence.In its first statement since her disappearance, Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party vowed to stay together and push for a democratic Thailand despite losing its figurehead.

“The party believes the former prime minister will explain to the public (her decision to flee) at the proper time,” the Pheu Thai Party statement said.

Thai media has been full of speculation about how she might have escaped, with most suggesting she went to Cambodia either by land or sea in the days before the court verdict and then on to Singapore.

A senior government source said it was believed she had fled to Dubai, the base of former Prime Minister Thaksin, who is Yingluck’s older brother.

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