The Supreme Court of Thailand on Friday postponed the verdict in former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's rice pledging case to Sept 27 as she failed to show up at the court, with the court issuing an arrest warrant against her.
The court set a new date of September 27 for the verdict, but said it would also seek an arrest warrant for Yingluck, who was ousted by a military coup three years ago, as it did not believe the reason she gave for not coming to court.
"With two family members as fugitives, the family loses political legitimacy", she said, adding that Yingluck's departure would be welcomed by a Thai junta tired of the prospect of her political martyrdom in jail.
Thailand's Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Ms Shinawatra after she missed the hearing, although the politician's lawyer said she could not attend because of illness.
This insistence was repeated as late as yesterday, when her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng told reporters Yingluck would definitely be in court. The current stretch of military rule is one of the longest since the 1970s, in a country with a history of coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
Yingluck's no-show was a "big surprise" to most people in Thailand, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University told CNN. But she earned some political credit while serving as prime minister and became even more popular after she was toppled in the 2014 coup.
Prayut Chan-o-cha, the incumbent Thai Prime Minister and head of the military junta, denied knowing her whereabouts but said it was possible she had already crossed by land into Cambodia. "I pledge that I have followed correct proceedings of the constitution, laws of the country in every way", she wrote in social media post.
Thousands of supporters - outnumbered by security forces - waited from dawn for a glimpse of the ousted leader, but she did not show. "Will she still say that she didn't get justice?"
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If found guilty, Yingluck might probably be sentenced to a certain period in jail for her alleged failure to do her duty by calling off the rice program which finally was charged of causing state losses.
In private she wielded authority among her party and entourage, in a country where deference is expected towards wealth and power.
"She's a former prime minister", Prawit said.
It was aimed at boosting farmers' incomes and alleviating rural poverty, and saw the government paying farmers almost twice the market rate for their crop.
But her government descended into political gridlock amidst mass protests and violent street clashes between red shirts and yellow shirts. "I really wanted to see her, but I respect her decision".
Her brother, Thaksin, left the country shortly before the court handed down his judgement in 2008.
The woman, who came from the poorer northeastern rural province of Isaan that is the Shinawatra support base, asked not to give her name as police were nearby. Forced out of office by a military coup in May of 2014, she was formally impeached in January of 2015.