BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is living in Britain on an entrepreneur visa, and has not received political asylum, according to media reports citing sources familiar with the matter.
Yingluck applied for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, which allows the holder to stay in Britain for a maximum of three years and four months, reports quoting unnamed sources in Pheu Thai Party said.
According to the website gov.uk, which contains information about UK government services, people from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland may apply for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas if they have access to £200,000 (S$360,000) in investment funds.
The holders can apply to extend the visa for another two years and possibly for settlement once they have been in Britain for five years, according to the website.
There has been speculation that the former prime minister might apply for political asylum to stay in Britain after fleeing Thailand to escape imprisonment.
Yingluck, a fugitive under Thai law, has been spotted in Britain on many occasions over the past month, with photos of her taken in London circulating on social media before and after the New Year holiday.
Pheu Thai confirmed on Wednesday (Jan 10) that Yingluck, a key former leader of the party, was in Britain, although party members claimed they did not have any further details about her location and legal status.
Phichai Nariphathaphan, another leading figure of the previously ruling party, said Yingluck was in Britain and the recent photos circulating on social media were genuine. "But I don't know if she has applied for political asylum or not," he added.
Phumtham Wechayachai, Pheu Thai's caretaker secretary-general, said on Wednesday the party had not contacted Yingluck in recent months.
"We follow her news from the media. There has been more and more news (about Yingluck). Things will get clearer soon," he said.
Yingluck fled the country in late August, shortly before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders was scheduled to deliver a verdict in a case against her stemming from her government's corruption-plagued rice-pledging scheme.
In late September, she was sentenced to five years in jail for negligence in regards to the scheme.