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Former Thailand PM Is No-Show For Verdict; Court Issues Arrest Warrant

25 August 2017

When Yingluck Shinawatra was elected prime minister of Thailand in 2011, she was a political neophyte with big ideas. It certainly boosted her political support among rural populations, where the Shinawatras support base is strongest, but her government's purchase of rice at above market prices backfired when the market collapsed.

The military government said Wednesday it expects by next year to finally have sold off the stockpile of 17.8 million tons of rice the subsidy created.

Yingluck maintains her innocence, arguing that the controversial rice-pledging scheme for which she is on trial was for the benefit of farmers and the country.

A verdict was due this week.

Earlier, Yingluck showed no sign of giving it up.

Her lawyers told the court she had been unable to attend because she was ill.

How popular is Yingluck Shinawatra?

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Supporters present flowers to Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra upon her arrival at the Thai Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, July 21, 2017.

It was aimed at boosting farmers' incomes and alleviating rural poverty, and saw the government paying farmers almost twice the market rate for their crop. Opponents also claimed that the program was rife with corruption and that some farmers were never reimbursed. Opposition leaders were furious, suggesting that the proposal was actually created to help Yingluck's brother and his allies. "Will she still say that she didn't get justice?"

May 2014 - Steps down from her post after Thailand's constitutional court finds her guilty of abuse of power in another case. She was forced to step down in 2014.

Thousands of supporters - outnumbered by security forces - waited from dawn for a glimpse of the ousted leader, but she did not show.

"Up until this point we have no information showing that Yingluck has exited via any of Thailand's border check points", he told Reuters news agency.

"If she's not guilty she should stay and fight the case", he said.

If convicted, Thailand's first female prime minister could be jailed for up to 10 years - although a sentence may be suspended. But she did not appear because of illness.

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The rice subsidies, promised to farmers during the 2011 election, helped Yingluck's party sweep the vote.

Last month, Yingluck herself openly acknowledged her need for public support, writing on her Facebook page, "I would like to transform your moral support into a power that would make me strong and tolerant".

She failed to arrive to hear the verdict which the court scheduled to announce at 10.00am she still didn't arrive, prompting the court to schedule September 27 as the day to announce the verdict.

Yingluck's whereabouts were not immediately known, fueling speculation that she might have fled the country.

This insistence was repeated as late as yesterday, when her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng told reporters Yingluck would definitely be in court.

"I think it is clear enough that politics is involved in the Yingluck trial", said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

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Former Thailand PM Is No-Show For Verdict; Court Issues Arrest Warrant