Thai ex-PM Yingluck urges anxious supporters to stay home for court verdict that could send her to prison
No matter which way Friday’s verdict goes, it will be a landmark in more than a decade of sometimes-violent struggle for power between rival Thai factions
Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra told supporters not to gather outside the country’s top court on Friday when it rules whether she is guilty of negligence.
Thailand’s first female prime minister, toppled by a military coup in 2014, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted and a life ban from politics under the new military-drafted constitution.
Thousands of supporters were expected to turn up outside the Supreme Court in northern Bangkok for the ruling, raising the spectre of confrontations with the police.
The junta said it would mobilise more than 4,000 police and army officers to surround the court and warned against mass demonstrations.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Yingluck told supporters to stay home, fearing people with “ill-intentions” might try and cause trouble for their movement.
“I want all of you to give me support by staying home and monitoring the news to avoid any risk of an unexpected incident by people with ill-intention against the country and us,” she wrote.
Yingluck is on trial over her administration’s rice subsidy scheme which paid farmers nearly twice the market rate for their crop.
Her previous court appearances have seen increasingly large crowds gather outside the court, showering her with roses and chanting - a rare sight in a nation where political gatherings remain outlawed.
Yingluck’s message to supporters came as dozens of big signs with the message “no disunity, no fracture” appeared in the Thai capital.
Police said they had no idea who put up the signs or why, and there was no confirmation the call for unity was issued in anticipation of the Friday verdict.
Nevertheless, with fears of a return of the street violence that has erupted regularly over the years, the reason for the signs, to many people in Bangkok, was clear.
“We don’t know if this is related to the Yingluck trial or not. We can’t comment but you can make your own deductions,” an officer at central Bangkok’s Lumpini police station said.
City officials said they would take down the signs because they had been put up without permission.
Police would investigate but were unlikely to press charges, a senior officer said.
“The message on display on the signs is positive. It does not cause public disorder and is not considered a breach of the government’s order,” Major General Panurat Lakboon, deputy city police commissioner, told Reuters, referring to a military government ban on public displays of political activity.
“We are unlikely to press charges on this but will check the security cameras to find out who is responsible.”
The military said it had to seize power in 2014 to end turmoil and has promised to hold an election next year under a new constitution that guarantees it oversight of government.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters