Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra Acquitted in Latest Legal Twist

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 1:21 pm

In a surprising turn of events, a Thai court on Monday acquitted former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is currently living in exile, on charges of mishandling funds for a government project in 2013. This marks the latest legal victory for the influential Shinawatra family, following the recent parole release of Yingluck’s brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, after a decade of self-imposed exile.

The favorable verdict for Yingluck comes amid growing speculation about her potential return to Thailand, similar to her brother Thaksin. Last year, Thaksin returned to Thailand after being detained in a hospital for six months and subsequently granted clemency due to his age and health. The thaw in tensions between Thaksin’s populist political machine and Thailand’s conservative royalist ruling class has led to conjecture about Yingluck’s possible return as well.

This marks Yingluck’s second favorable verdict, as the same court cleared her of abuse of power charges in December last year related to a personnel transfer she oversaw during her tenure as prime minister from 2011 to 2014. However, for Yingluck to return without facing imprisonment, she would require a pardon from King Maha Vajiralongkorn or another form of clemency. In 2017, she was sentenced in absentia for alleged negligence in a rice subsidy program that cost the government an estimated 500 billion baht ($14 billion).

Yingluck and her supporters maintain her innocence, claiming that she is being persecuted as part of an effort to dismantle Thaksin’s political influence. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, has faced charges of abuse of power, corruption, and disrespect for the monarchy.

The recent acquittal by unanimous decision pertains to charges of mishandling 240 million baht ($6.7 million) earmarked for a roadshow promoting an infrastructure plan. This unexpected turn in the legal proceedings adds another layer of complexity to the political landscape in Thailand, where Thaksin’s influence continues despite legal challenges. The Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai Party, now led by Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtran, remains a significant player in Thai politics, having formed a coalition with military parties connected to past coups that removed the family from power.

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