Shinawatra saga: Yingluck’s comeback fuels legal limelight

Photo courtesy of The Nation

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s potential return from exile sparks intrigue over her legal fate, mirroring her brother Thaksin’s tumultuous history, claims the Shinawatras’ lawyer.

Pichit Chuenban, a figure linked to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s Cabinet due to his close allegiance to the Shinawatras, responded to speculation about Yingluck’s comeback.

“I really don’t know. I’m only taking care of her case.”

Yingluck’s brother, ex-PM Thaksin, hinted at her possible return during a recent Songkran visit to Chiang Mai, expressing a desire to reunite for festivities. Pichit affirmed that Yingluck must adhere to legal protocols upon return, akin to her brother’s journey. However, he vehemently denied any preferential treatment towards Thaksin, stressing his compliance with due legal process.

The possibility of a clandestine arrangement for Thaksin’s return last August, following a pardon reducing his sentence, ignited speculation. Recently granted parole on health grounds, Thaksin’s situation remains a topic of scrutiny.

Pichit refuted claims of personal conversations with Yingluck regarding her return, having only notified her of acquittal earlier this year. Yingluck, ousted by a military coup like her brother, fled before sentencing linked to a rice-pledging scheme.

Despite past legal entanglements, Yingluck saw two recent Supreme Court acquittals: one in December for malfeasance related to a security council chief’s transfer, and another in March for alleged collusion in a PR campaign contract.

Pichit’s controversial past, including a brief jail stint for contempt of court, adds another layer to the saga. Initially considered for a government role, he faced public backlash and withdrawal from consideration, reported The Nation.

Amidst rumours of ministerial posts in Srettha’s reshuffle, Pichit maintains ignorance.

“I know nothing. I’m focused on my work.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Former Thai PM Yingluck cleared in major corruption case

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Case Division for Holders of Political Positions yesterday delivered a resounding verdict, absolving Yingluck Shinawatra and five co-defendants of malfeasance and corruption allegations.

The charges stemmed from the allocation of a hefty 240-million-baht campaign budget aimed at promoting the Yingluck government’s ambitious 2-trillion-baht infrastructure projects.

Commenting on the verdict, Thanaporn Sriyakul, director of the Political and Public Policy Analysis Institute, pointed out potential legal avenues that could pave the way for Yingluck’s return. He highlighted recent regulations concerning parole and inmate detention outside prison, suggesting that these factors might influence Yingluck’s decision.

Thanaporn alluded to the infamous rice-pledging case that shadows Yingluck’s legacy.

“It’s plausible that Yingluck will follow a similar path as Thaksin but her return hinges on various factors, including her willingness to face punishment and the possibility of a royal pardon.”

The court’s unanimous decision, voting 9-0 in favour of acquittal, dealt a blow to the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s accusations against Yingluck and her co-defendants. Notably, the court also rescinded the arrest warrant previously issued for Yingluck in connection with this case.

The crux of the legal dispute revolved around allegations of impropriety in awarding contracts for the Roadshow to Thailand’s Future Thailand 2020 campaign. The prosecution argued that Yingluck and her associates bypassed public tenders, favouring select companies for the project. However, the court found no evidence of bias or wrongdoing, asserting that the budget allocation adhered to procurement regulations, reported Bangkok Post.

Moreover, the court underscored the approval of Yingluck’s government projects by relevant authorities at the time, dismissing claims of misappropriation or wasteful expenditure. This latest acquittal adds to Yingluck’s legal victories, including her exoneration in a 2011 controversy over a National Security Council appointment.

Nevertheless, the spectre of the rice-pledging scandal still looms large over Yingluck’s legacy. Fleeing in 2017 following a conviction in the rice-pledging programme, Yingluck remains a fugitive with an active arrest warrant.

Bangkok NewsPolitics NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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