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Thailand: Supreme Court issues arrest warrant against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

Thailand: Supreme Court issues arrest warrant against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra”

Yingluck failed to show up to hear the verdict being delivered.

Court officials also said they believe Yingluck is intending to flee the country, which requires a warrant to be issued, a reporter at the court said.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan initially said he had no information on Yingluck's whereabouts but as he left a meeting in Bangkok he said: "It is possible that she has fled already".

"We have to make sure that Yingluck is no longer in Thailand", said Siriam Chumsri. If convicted, she will have 30 days to appeal against the verdict.

The court set a new date of Sept 27 for the verdict.

Rumours of her flight were met with understanding from supporters who lingered outside the court.

"I assure you, I've never thought of fleeing".

While popular with the country's farmers, the rice subsidies - a cornerstone of Ms Yingluck's campaign in 2011 - are blamed for allegedly losing up to Baht500 billion (€13 billion) and giving rise to corruption.

The current government, which is still trying to sell off the rice stockpiles, says Yingluck's administration lost as much as $17 billion because it couldn't export at a price commensurate with what it had paid farmers.

A former Thai minister also charged in connection with the rice subsidy scheme was jailed for 42 years on Friday.

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"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.

Yingluck urged her supports to stay away from the court but thousands still were expected.

The former businesswoman drew hordes of supporters whenever she toured her electoral heartlands, taking endless selfies and being showered with red roses.

There was only "low risk" of unrest following her absence, he added. Thailand's junta has clamped down since the coup, suppressing dissent and banning political gatherings of more than five people.

Hundreds of Yingluck's supporters who'd been waiting outside the court for the verdict quickly dispersed once word spread the former Prime Minister hadn't appeared. At one stage, lines of police stood ready to repel any demonstrations. A prison term might have turned her into more of a political martyr in her supporters' eyes, and boosted their admiration of her. Yingluck also posted a message on her Facebook page urging followers to stay away, saying she anxious about their safety. Yingluck won the election in a landslide to become Thailand's first female prime minister.

She has pleaded innocent to the charges, saying she is the victim of a "subtle political game".

"I pledge that I have followed correct proceedings of the constitution, laws of the country in every way", she said on social media.

Corruption, such as that which plagued the rice scheme on Ms Yingluck's watch, has been cited by the junta as a justification for its coup. Proceedings have lasted more than two years.

Yingluck was ousted from office by the Constitutional Court over an abuse-of-power case, ahead of a military coup led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, then head of the army, in May 2014 that overthrew the Pheu Thai Party government.

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