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Ex-Thai PM faces arrest

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s military junta raised the possibility that ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra had fled the country on Friday after she failed to show up for the verdict in a negligence trial.

Yingluck, 50, whose family has dominated Thai politics for more than 15 years, faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty in a case centered on the multi-billion dollar losses incurred by a rice subsidy scheme for farmers.

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The Supreme Court set a new date of Sept. 27 for the verdict, and said it would seek an arrest warrant for Yingluck as it did not believe her excuse that she could not attend the court hearing because of an ear problem.

“It is possible that she has fled already,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters as he left a meeting in Bangkok. He had earlier said only that he had no confirmation of her whereabouts.

Yingluck’s lawyer, Norrawit Lalaeng, said her team had told him on Friday morning she had an “ear fluid imbalance” and could not attend court. He said he was unaware whether she was still in the country. Her spokeswoman declined to comment.

“We think that the defendant is hiding or has fled,” a statement from a Supreme Court judge said.

Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who heads the political clan, was overthrown in a 2006 coup and fled into exile to escape corruption charges that he said were aimed at demolishing the populist movement he founded.

That movement, pitted against a Bangkok-centered royalist and pro-military elite, has been at the heart of years of turmoil.

The verdict against Yingluck is widely seen as having the potential to reignite tensions, though the junta has largely snuffed out open opposition.

Yingluck last commented on social media on Thursday, saying on her Facebook page that she would not be able to meet supporters at court because of the security measures. The doors of her home were shut and local media said there had been no movement there since the early morning.