BANGKOK: Thailand has revoked the passports of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra, who has yet to be seen in public since she slipped out of the country before the verdict in her negligence trial, officials said on Tuesday.
The former prime minister, whose elected government was toppled in a 2014 coup, has not been seen or heard from since she stunned the kingdom by failing to turn up for the Supreme Court verdict in late August.
She was later sentenced to five years in prison in absentia for failing to stop graft in a government rice policy—a case lambasted by her supporters as part of a broader junta effort to drive the ex-premier’s family out of politics.
“All of Yingluck’s passports have been revoked now,” Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters Tuesday.
Yingluck had four Thai passports, two personal and two diplomatic, according to authorities.
Yingluck’s elder brother Thaksin, who was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup, has been living in self-exile for years to avoid a graft conviction.
He has a home in Dubai and junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha said in late September that Yingluck was also in the emirate.
While her current whereabouts remain unconfirmed, there are widespread reports the former premier is seeking asylum in Britain.
“I don’t know [where she is],” Prayut told reporters Tuesday.
“What’s important is that the country she’s residing must confirm her location with us,” he added.
The move comes after the expiry of a deadline for Yingluck to appeal against the verdict, making her return to Thailand highly unlikely.
Analysts believe the junta likely cut a backroom deal with the politician to whisk her out of the country—a charge the generals deny.
The Shinawatras are wildly popular in Thailand’s rural heartlands, where voters wooed by their welfare schemes have helped them dominate elections for the past decade.
But they are loathed by Bangkok’s traditional army-allied elite, who have branded them as corrupt opportunists and repeatedly cut down their governments with coups, court rulings and protests.
The ruling junta recently vowed to hold elections in November 2018, though a tight ban on political activities remains in place.
Elections will not restore the same level of democracy the kingdom enjoyed before the coup.
Under the junta’s new charter elected politicians will be straitjacketed by an appointed Upper House and requirements to stick to a 20-year master plan.