Pheu Thai figures 'stunned' by party leader's court no-show
Ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's no-show at the Supreme Court on Friday drew sympathy and empathy from supporters while some Pheu Thai Party figures said they were taken completely off guard.
Many vowed to return next month for the court's rescheduled session to hand down its ruling on the rice-pledging case against Ms Yingluck.
The court deferred the session after Ms Yingluck failed to turn up, saying she suffered from Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo, according to her lawyer Norawit Lalaeng.
The court also issued a warrant for her arrest and ordered her surety of 30 million baht to be confiscated as she failed to produce a medical certificate to back her sickness claim.
The Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions was due to pass its final ruling on Ms Yingluck's alleged dereliction of duty over the controversial rice-pledging scheme implemented by her government.
At its peak, a turnout of about 3,000 supporters was estimated at the court on Friday morning, according to police.
Despite Ms Yingluck skipping the session, and now presumed to have fled the country, some supporters refused to believe she has escaped.
A supporter from Nakhon Pathom said that Ms Yingluck was the victim of a vendetta engineered by the government.
"Ms Yingluck had the right to miss [the court ruling]," she said. "If it were for her own safety, it was her right to do so," the supporter said.
"She was politically bullied," she added.
A 65-year-old farmer from Roi Et, said Ms Yingluck could be genuinely sick. She noted the former premier looked "pale and sick" when she was seen in photos making merit at Wat Rakhang Kositaram on Wednesday.
The pictures were circulated online.
"She gave farmers a chance when she was in charge of the country... It was a type of democracy that was tangible for the public," the farmer said.
The rice pledging, a flagship manifesto policy of the Yingluck administration, won overwhelming support from many farmers who thought it benefited the grassroots people, said another supporter from Nakhon Pathom.
The policy handed victory to the Pheu Thai Party in the election and landed Ms Yingluck in the prime minister's seat.
Another supporter insisted the former premier may have made a mistake with the rice policy, and that her subordinates should take the blame as well.
The supporter said she expected Ms Yingluck would "see the case through" until the end. However, she believed she understood why the former prime minister decided not to show up.
"She may have made mistakes, but she didn't mean it. She was put under so much pressure," the supporter said.
"We can all pitch in to help her pay off her debt," she added.
Ms Yingluck is facing an administrative order demanding she pay compensation for damages to the tune of 35.7 billion baht, or 20% of the total losses incurred by the rice-pledging scheme.
Meanwhile, a Pheu Thai Party source said after Ms Yingluck missed the court session yesterday, party members were assessing the situation.
"The party members were left dumbfounded. They will speak after the dust has settled in a few days," the source said.
Laddawan Wongsriwong, a former Pheu Thai MP for Phayao, conceded Ms Yingluck's no-show had stunned party members who were waiting to greet her outside the court yesterday.
Samart Kaewmeechai, a former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai, said he found it incomprehensible that Ms Yingluck decided to skip the ruling.
"I want to know who advised her [to stage the no-show]. This will have an [adverse] impact on the party's image and its popularity," he said.
Worawat Ue-apinyakul, Pheu Thai's former science and technology minister, dismissed the fuss generated by the no-show. He said he was confident Ms Yingluck would turn up on Sept 27 for the rescheduled court session to hear the ruling.