Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has returned home from a trip overseas, putting an end to speculation she would stay away from Thailand as prosecutors decide whether to indict her for mismanaging a rice-buying scheme.
Yingluck arrived at Bangkok's Don Muang airport close to midnight on Sunday, her aide, Wim Roongwattanajinda, said, adding that her lawyers were ready to fight the case.
Yingluck was forced by a court to step down on May 7 for abusing her power by transferring a top state official. The military ousted her government in a coup on May 22. She faces jail and a political ban if the rice case goes to court and she is convicted of dereliction of duty.
Yingluck, who went shopping at a hypermarket near her home yesterday morning, admitted some people might have questioned whether she would return to the country, but said the trip was mainly for her to spend time with her son before he went back to school. "Personally, I have no intention to leave Thailand," Yingluck said.
Pitch Pongsawat, a professor of political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said Yingluck's decision to return to Thailand did not come as a surprise as going into exile would do more harm to her reputation and political future.
"She has always insisted that she has done nothing wrong. If she left, that could be seen as admitting the accusations against her," Pongsawat said.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) says the rice-buying scheme, the flagship policy that brought Yingluck to power in 2011, had incurred billions of dollars in losses that she failed to stem. She has rejected the allegations. The scheme effectively priced Thai rice out of the export market, and Yingluck's government found few buyers for the millions of tonnes that ended up in state stockpiles.
The NACC last week filed its findings to the attorney general and recommended Yingluck's indictment. Prosecutors are expected to decide whether to pursue the case within 30 days.
Yingluck was granted permission by the military junta to go to Europe to attend the birthday party of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid jail for graft.
Yingluck's fortunes have been similar to those of her billionaire brother. Both led populist governments toppled in coups and were subjected to legal action and street protests by pro-establishment activists.
Additional reporting by Kristine Kwok