Thailand's top court will deliver a verdict Wednesday on whether ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra is guilty of negligence -- but the fugitive politician will almost certainly be a no-show, having yet to publicly emerge since she fled the kingdom last month.

Thai court to rule on runaway ex-PM Yingluck in absentia

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By Agence France Presse

Thailand’s top court will deliver a verdict Wednesday on whether ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra is guilty of negligence — but the fugitive politician will almost certainly be a no-show, having yet to publicly emerge since she fled the kingdom last month.

Yingluck, whose elected government was toppled in a 2014 coup, faces up to a decade in jail for negligence over a rice policy.

The verdict was supposed to be read on August 25, but the 50-year-old threw the court a curveball by failing to show up, stunning the thousands of supporters who had who had gathered outside.

The former premier has not made any public appearance or comments since her vanishing act, but there are widespread reports she joined her billionaire brother Thaksin, a former prime minister also ousted in a 2006 coup, in Dubai.

On the eve of the verdict, junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha declared that he knew where Yingluck had fled to but would not reveal the location until after the judgement was delivered.

Yingluck’s lawyer, meanwhile, told AFP he had not spoken to his client since her disappearance.

“She hasn’t contacted me at all since last month,” said Norawit Lalaeng.

Thailand’s junta leaders — arch enemies of the Shinawatra siblings — deny having any prior knowledge of Yingluck’s plan to escape.

But many are unconvinced given the junta’s tight security net and round-the-clock surveillance of the former premier.

Analysts say Yingluck likely cut a deal with the military leaders, who are bent on scrubbing her powerful clan from Thailand’s political scene.

“By getting Yingluck out of Thailand, the military gets rid of a potential thorn in their side who could become a martyr if jailed, or a powerful politician again if she is not,” said Paul Chambers, an expert on Thai politics.

Yingluck’s trial revolves around accusations that she failed to stop corruption in rice subsidy that pumped cash into her family’s rural base in the northeast.

The policy was wildly popular among farmers but slammed as a costly populist handout by her critics in the royalist, army-backed elite.

Those divisions — between Shinawatra supporters among the urban and rural poor and rivals in the traditional aristocracy — have gnawed at Thailand for over a decade.

While the Shinawatra clan has dominated electoral politics, their governments have been repeatedly knocked down by coups and court rulings backed by elites, triggering repeated rounds of rival protests.

Political unrest has been hemmed in under the junta, which has banned protests and smothered dissent.

With both Yingluck and Thaksin now in exile, there are serious questions about the future of their political dynasty and the pro-democracy “Redshirt” movement formed by their supporters.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a politics expert at Chulalongkorn University, said a heavy sentencing on Tuesday would jack up Thailand’s political temperature but is unlikely to trigger any “cataclysmic” forms of unrest.

“If tomorrow’s ruling is harsh and seen as unjust, it will exacerbate and build up frustrations on one side of Thailand’s polarised society,” he told AFP.

AFP

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Trillanes to military: ‘Stop joining EJK operations of PNP’

Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has appealed to the military to avoid joining the alleged extrajudicial killings being conducted by the police.

Trillanes, a former rebel soldier, said the military should stick with fighting the armed combatants instead. The latest appeal was aired in a latest Facebook post of the former lawmaker.

“I am calling on the AFP to stop joining the EJK operations of the PNP. You are better than this,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Just stick to the combatants. Beat them and the front orgs would become irrelevant,” he said.

Trillanes also gave an unsolicited advice to the police force to slow down their operations.

“As for the PNP, magdahan-dahan kayo dahil duterte cannot protect you ‘pag wala na sya sa pwesto,” he said.

Trillanes made the appeal after nine activists were killed while several others were arrested in police and military raids in Calabarzon last weekend. The crackdown happened two days after President Duterte ordered security forces to kill armed communist rebels during an encounter.

I am calling on the AFP to stop joining the EJK operations of the PNP. You are better than this. Just stick to the…

Posted by Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV on Sunday, March 7, 2021

Villanueva: Women key to success against Covid-19 pandemic

Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday stressed the key role that women play in defeating the pandemic, saying female leadership would make it possible to win against the most serious health crisis gripping the Philippines and the rest of the world.

In a speech sponsoring Senate Resolution 673 commemorating International Women’s Day, the chair of the Senate labor committee said women now have decisive roles in determining the fate of the country and it was time to acknowledge that.

“If women are with us every step of the way, we cannot lose our way,” Villanueva said in his sponsorship speech.

“If the status of women in society continues to rise, our country will, too,” he said. “And as long as there are women who continue to lead the fight against the pandemic, it is impossible for the people not to be victorious,” he added.

To illustrate the barriers that had been breached by women empowerment, Villanueva recalled his days at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) as the agency’s head.

“I can say that in various trades dominated by highly-skilled male workers, women are successfully breaking the barriers,” Villanueva said.

“In fact, more than 50 percent of technical-vocational graduates are women and they have proven that by taking courses more popular among men, they can also excel in them,” he added.

“Many Filipino women are now making a decent and stable living as welders, drivers, automotive mechanics,” he said.

Italy mayor accused of vaccine queue-jumping resigns

A town mayor in Italy’s Sicily region said Sunday he was stepping down after coming under fire for jumping the queue for coronavirus vaccinations.

“I spent a sleepless night thinking about this decision and I concluded that it is right for me to resign,” Nicolo Nicolosi, 78, told the ANSA news agency.

Nicolosi, mayor of Corleone, a small town near Palermo, said he was quitting “even if I insist that I made the right choice in getting vaccines for me and city councillors.”

On Saturday, press reports said police were investigating the mayor and other members of the municipal government, and had reported the case to local prosecutors.

The city of Corleone — otherwise famous for inspiring the name of the Mafia boss from “The Godfather” franchise — confirmed on its Facebook page that Nicolosi got two vaccine doses in January.

Italy started its vaccination campaign in late December, reserving the first doses for health workers and people over 80. Like in the rest of Europe, supply shortages have caused delays.

Nicolosi argued that local politicians like him also needed immediate protection against the virus, as frontline workers serving their local communities.

His vaccination was “a conscious choice made to stave off the possibility that any contact with the virus might have forced him to abandon his post on the trenches,” the city of Corleone said on Facebook.

Nicola Morra, a senator from the ruling Five Star Movement and head of the upper chamber’s anti-mafia committee, said Nicolosi was not the only local politician who abused the system.

“Unfortunately we are hearing of several situations in which the rule of law was trampled on,” Morra wrote on Facebook, urging other queue jumpers to follow the example of stepping down.

Italy has so far injected 5.3 million doses of the vaccine and fully vaccinated 1.6 million people, out of a population of 60 million, health ministry data showed Sunday.

New Prime Minister Mario Draghi, sworn in last month, has made it a priority to accelerate vaccine distribution, to contain a pandemic that has killed almost 100,000 people nationwide. © Agence France-Presse

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