BANGKOK – Thailand's deposed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday ruled out going into self-exile to avoid possible criminal charges, after the country's junta gave her permission to travel overseas.
In her first news conference since the army seized power in May, Yingluck said she would fly to Paris for a private trip. She is expected to attend the 65th birthday party of her elder brother, also the former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, on July 26.
Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon turned populist politician, was ousted in an earlier coup in 2006 and later fled Thailand to avoid prison for a corruption conviction. But Yingluck insisted that she would not follow in her brother's footsteps.
“I am a Thai citizen who should have rights and freedoms like any other Thais. I want to reassure you that I will not abandon my fellow Thais and I'm ready to come back to Thailand,” she said. Yingluck, who was indicted for dereliction of duty a day after she was removed from office, could face criminal charges linked to a loss-making rice subsidy scheme.
On Thursday, the National Anti-Corruption Commission said that it was forwarding that case to the attorney general's office for possible referral to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions. Yingluck insisted again on her innocence and questioned whether the commission's probe met international standards.
"The investigation is very fast unlike other political cases," she said. Yingluck said the panel chose to hear one-sided facts by considering testimony from her opponents while rejecting other key witnesses. The junta said that Yingluck had been given approval to leave the country for the first time since the coup because she had not opposed the military takeover.
Yingluck, Thailand's first female premier, was removed from office in a controversial court ruling shortly before the army toppled the remnants of her elected government. She was among hundreds of people summoned and temporarily detained by the junta afterwards.
The army said that the coup was necessary to end months of political unrest that left 28 people dead, but Thaksin's supporters accuse the military of using the protests as an excuse for a power grab. The junta has ruled out holding new elections until around October 2015.