BANGKOK– Puea Thai party of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who fled into exile last week, said on Tuesday it would overcome the obstacles it faces and was committed to democracy and working for the good of the people.
Yingluck, whose government was ousted in a 2014 military coup, disappeared ahead of a verdict last Friday in her trial for negligence over a costly rice subsidy scheme that could have seen her jailed for up to 10 years.
The government has said she is abroad but has not confirmed where she is. Members of her Puea Thai party have said she fled to Dubai.
Party members said at the weekend that without Yingluck, the party was leaderless. But in a statement on Tuesday the party said it was resolved to forge ahead with its work.
“The Puea Thai party has passed hot, cold and heavy monsoons … but all members of the party are still committed to safeguarding democracy,” it said in the statement.
It did not refer explicitly to Yingluck’s departure, referring only to “the event that took place on Aug. 25”.
“We would like to say that the party has important business … The obstacles that the party is undergoing makes us more determined … to work so that Thai people have happiness.”
Yingluck, 50, was elected Thailand’s first female prime minister in 2011 and is the sister of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
She was forced to step down days before a May 2014 coup, after a court found her guilty of abuse of power.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also head of the junta and led the 2014 coup against Yingluck’s government, said he was concerned that Yingluck could rally the opposition from abroad.
“I’m worried because people still give importance to her,” Prayuth told reporters at Bangkok’s Government House.
The military government has promised to hold a general election next year.
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters the government had no immediate plan to revoke Yingluck’s passports.
She holds two Thai passports, one regular and another diplomatic, and is also thought to hold a third, foreign one.
“The issue has not reached the foreign ministry yet,” he said when asked if the ministry would revoke her passports.
A foreign ministry spokesman said he could not confirm whether Yingluck held a foreign passport.
Her brother, former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin, holds a Montenegrin passport. He was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled abroad to avoid a 2008 jail term for graft related to a land case he called politically motivated.
He has a home in Dubai but travels frequently, particularly to Singapore and Hong Kong, to meet his three children and grandchildren, members of the Shinawatra family have said in social media posts.
Aides say Yingluck, who pleaded innocent to the negligence charge, left Thailand after getting information that she would be given a heavy sentence.
Under the rice subsidy scheme, a flagship policy of her administration, the government bought at above-market prices, to the approval of farmers in the north and northeast, regions that have historically supported the Shinawatras.
Critics denounced the scheme as an expensive exercise in shoring up electoral support.
It led to unsold rice stocks of as much as 18 million tonnes, caused Thailand to lose its crown as the world’s top rice exporter and led to losses of $8 billion, the ruling military government says.
The Supreme Court will now deliver its verdict on Sept. 27.
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Pracha Hariraksapitak- Reuters
Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel