Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra seeks 'fan support' amid asset freeze

Ousted former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand on July 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, ousted in a 2014 coup, called on her supporters for help as the military government "temporarily froze" 37 of her properties and 16 bank accounts.

Yingluck was banned from politics in 2015 after a military-appointed assembly found her guilty of mismanaging a scheme that bought rice from farmers at up to 50 per cent above the market price. She denies wrongdoing.

Though she is banned from political life, Yingluck remains a figurehead of the populist movement that has won every Thai election since 2001. She remains hugely popular among rural voters.

Last year, a state-appointed committee recommended she pay a fine of 35 billion baht (S$1.4 billion), or about a fifth of the 178 billion baht it said the schemes cost the state in 2012 and 2013.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters on Thursday (July 27) that the finance ministry had located assets belonging to Yingluck, including the 37 properties and money deposited in 16 bank accounts.

"They have been temporarily frozen ... but they haven't been seized by the state," Mr Wissanu told reporters.

Yingluck took to Twitter on Wednesday and wrote: "My bank accounts have already been confiscated. I would like encouragement from my fans and my Thai brothers and sisters."

Yingluck was charged with criminal negligence over the rice scheme, which was one of the policies engineered by her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was also toppled in a 2006 coup.

Thaksin is central to a conflict that has divided Thais for more than a decade. He lives in exile abroad to avoid a jail term for abuse of power, a conviction he says was politically motivated.

A verdict in the criminal case against Yingluck is expected on Aug 25.

The junta has warned Yingluck supporters not to gather at the court. That warning is being ignored by some supporters in the north and north-east, a cradle of Shinawatra support, with some saying they will descend on Bangkok in coming weeks.

Pichit Tamoon, a leader of the red-shirt movement that supports the Shinawatras based in the northern city of Chiang Mai, said up to 3,000 people would head for Bangkok.

"Many people will come to give her support because they feel sorry for her," red shirt spokesman Thanawut Wichaidit told Reuters. "She looked after farmers and look at what happened to her."

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