Thailand's ousted PM Yingluck heads to Europe

 
Thailand's deposed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra (L) and her son Supasek Amornchat (R) gesture a traditional greeting to waiting media as they arrives at Suvarnabhumi International airport in Bangkok on July 23, 2014. Yingluck ruled out going into self-exile to avoid possible criminal charges after the country's junta gave her permission to travel overseas. -- PHOTO: AFP

DRESSED in a striped jacket and accompanied by her school-going son Supasek Amornchat, deposed Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Wednesday night as she prepared to leave for Paris.

The former leader, who had secured permission from the ruling junta to holiday overseas, is leaving amid concerns that she will not return to face charges of negligence over a controversial rice purchase scheme administered by her government.

Asked by the crowd of reporters when she would return, she said: "I'm going to rest first. Let's talk when I get back."

Ms Yingluck, 47, was thrown out of office by the constitutional court on May 7 for abuse of power over the transfer of a senior official. The remaining members of her Cabinet were ousted in May 22 by a military coup.

Throughout her two-and-a-half year premiership, she was constantly accused of being a proxy of her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was the premier of Thailand until he was ousted by the military coup in 2006.

Thaksin and his family faced a string of graft-related charges after being unseated. He left Thailand in 2008 to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing and never returned.

The former leader was subsequently sentenced in absentia to two years' jail for helping his then wife buy state land in an auction. He reportedly makes home in Dubai.

Ms Yingluck is expected to join Thaksin in Paris for his 65th birthday. According to Thai media reports, the event is expected to be attended only by close friends and family.

Political parties led or backed by Thaksin have won every election in the past decade as he commands devotion in the populous north and northeast of Thailand. His critics - who hail largely from the urban middle class and royalist establishment - say his electoral dominance is derived from corruption and ruinous populous schemes. 

tanhy@sph.com.sg