Junta leaders let Yingluck go abroad

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iol pic wld_THAILAND-POLITICS_0717_11 Reuters Yingluck Shinawatra smiles as she arrives to address reporters in Bangkok. File picture: Chaiwat Subprasom

Bangkok - Thailand's military rulers have given permission to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave the country on a private trip on condition she does not get involved in politics, officers said on Thursday.

The military overthrew Yingluck's government on May 22, days after she was forced from office by a court ruling for abuse of power.

The military briefly detained Yingluck and hundreds of other politicians, activists, academics and journalists after the coup, which it said it carried out to restore order after months of sometimes violent protests against her government.

Some of those detained remain in custody and the military maintains restrictions on many of the others, including on overseas travel, and on political activity in general under martial law.

“Yingluck has not done anything that violates our orders so her personal trip to Europe has been approved,” said army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree.

The trip will be Yingluck's first abroad since the army seized power on May 22.

General Teerachai Nakwanit, army commander for Thailand's central region which includes Bangkok, told Reuters that Yingluck planned to go to Europe from late July to early August and was being allowed to go on the condition that she does not engage in political activity.

The ousting of Yingluck's government was the latest twist in a nearly decade-long struggle for power between Yingluck's brother, former populist premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the royalist-military establishment.

For six months before the coup, Thailand was convulsed by establishment-backed protests aimed at ousting Yingluck, who became Thailand's first female prime minister when she swept to power in a 2011 election.

The demonstrators wanted to eradicate the influence of her family, including the former telecommunications billionaire Thaksin, who was himself ousted in a coup in 2006 and has lived in self-exile since 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft.

Yingluck is expected to attend Thaksin's 65th birthday party in France later this month, Teerachai said.

At least 30 people were killed in sporadic violence over the months of unrest and the economy was badly bruised.

The army's intervention triggered widespread international criticism and the United States and European Union downgraded diplomatic ties.

Since taking power, the military's National Council for Peace and Order has banned hundreds of activists and politicians from leaving the country. It has also stifled dissent by forcefully dispersing anti-coup protests.

At the junta's request, the Foreign Ministry has revoked the passports of at least six people, including two anti-coup movement founders who fled overseas.

Yingluck remains under investigation by Thailand's anti-corruption agency over a rice-buying programme which offered farmers a price for their rice well above the market level.

The scheme was at the heart of her government's populist policies but caused huge financial losses to the state. The military is conducting nationwide inspections of rice warehouses to assess the extent of corruption related to the scheme. - Reuters

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