World / Asia-Pacific

Foreign travel ban placed on Yingluck as trial starts

By Agencies in Bangkok, Thailand (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-20 07:36

Cabinet's decision on constitution referendum dashes likelihood of early return to democracy

Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was banned on Tuesday from traveling overseas at the start of her trial on negligence charges, the latest in a number of cases her supporters say are part of an attempt to tighten the junta's grip on power.

Yingluck was forced from office a year ago after Thailand's Constitutional Court found her guilty of abuse of power. Weeks later, the military staged a coup that removed the remnants of her government.

She is accused of dereliction of duty for her role in a multibillion dollar rice subsidy program that anti-corruption authorities alleged was plagued with graft.

Yingluck, who denies the charges against her, faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. She has accused her enemies of conducting a witch hunt against her in order to handicap her powerful family.

Supporters chanted "Yingluck! Yingluck!" as the ex-premier entered the Supreme Court in Bangkok to hear the charges against her.

"I am confident of my innocence," Yingluck told reporters. "I hope the court will grant me justice, and that everything will go according to due process under the law."

The court banned her from traveling overseas and agreed bail terms of 30 million baht ($899,280). The next hearing is set for July 21.

The case against Yingluck is the latest twist in a long-running political saga that includes more than a decade of on-off violence that has pitted supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, himself a former prime minister, against the royalist-military establishment that sees the Shinawatras as a threat and reviles their populist policies.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Seoul on Tuesday, Thaksin said he had no plans to mobilize his "Red Shirt" supporters but called the first year of the junta government, which came to power in a coup, "not so impressive".

"I think democracy will prevail sooner or later, but we have to be patient, and we have to be peaceful," he said. "Don't resort to any kind of violence."

Thaksin, who remains hugely influential, was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled abroad to avoid prison for a 2008 corruption conviction he says was politically motivated.

The likelihood of an early return to democratic rule was dashed on Tuesday when the Cabinet agreed that a referendum should be held on a new constitution and the military's blueprint for restoring democracy.

Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters it will take three months to hold a referendum on a new constitution, which would push back a general election planned for early next year.

Reuters - AP

 Foreign travel ban placed on Yingluck as trial starts

Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok on Tuesday. Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters

(China Daily 05/20/2015 page11)

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