Regime under fire over Yingluck hunt

The government faced a barrage of criticism yesterday after foreign media reported that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in London, not in Dubai as suggested by senior regime figures.

CNN reported Friday that Yingluck was in London seeking political asylum, while Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said Thailand had already asked Interpol for help in finding her.

The US-based news outlet, quoting a source in the Pheu Thai Party, said she had left Dubai for London two weeks ago and was there to seek political asylum, confirming a Reuters report on Thursday she had left Dubai for London on Sept 11.

Gen Prawit said Friday he did not know if Yingluck was in London. He said the Foreign Ministry had reported she was in Dubai and had not given him an update.

Commenting on the report she was in London, he said, he had no idea on the present status of Yingluck in England.

Still, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier promised the Thai government that it would prevent Yingluck from carrying out any political activities from the country, Gen Prawit added.

Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen said Friday police are stepping up efforts to locate Yingluck after the Supreme Court issued a warrant for her arrest after it handed her a five-year jail term in absentia for her failure to stop graft in her administration’s government-to-government rice stock sales.

“Police have sent a request to the Foreign Ministry to consider revoking Yingluck’s passport,” he said.

Police have also asked Interpol to issue an international alert, known as a Blue Notice, to its 190 member countries to locate Yingluck, Pol Col Kritsana said.

Thailand has an extradition treaty with the United Kingdom but not with the UAE.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said the ministry will proceed with the cancellation of her passport only when law enforcement agencies — the police, and the court — request it.

For her extradition, Ms Busadee said police must ask prosecutors to seek it when her whereabouts are confirmed and it also needs to consider whether the country she takes shelter in has an extradition treaty with Thailand.

Former Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong said the Foreign Ministry must be quick to explain to the international community that Yingluck is not an asylum-seeker, but a convict fleeing from justice.

The ministry must explain that court proceedings were transparent and fair and Yingluck was given her right to form a team of lawyers to fight the case, Mr Watchara said.

Despite her previous assurances she would not flee, Yingluck escaped shortly before Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions was originally scheduled to deliver the ruling on her government’s loss-ridden rice-pledging case. The court then postponed the ruling to Wednesday, when it handed down a five-year jail term.

The ministry must also summon and inform the British ambassador of the government’s position on the matter, he said.

A source at the Office of Attorney-General said Yingluck has the right to seek asylum in any country and it is up to that country as to whether it is granted.

Thailand will not enter a dispute with any country in which a citizen seeks asylum since it might plunge the country into a diplomatic conflict, the source said.

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