A military spokesman said Yingluck, forced from office by a court
ruling days before the military seized power in May, was permitted
to leave provided she stayed out of politics. He said she would be
allowed back into Thailand at the end of her trip.
The military briefly detained Yingluck and hundreds of other
politicians, activists, academics and journalists after the May 22
coup, which it says it staged to restore order after months of
sometimes violent protests against her government.
Some of those detained remain in custody under martial law while the
military's National Council for Peace and Order has banned hundreds
of others from leaving the country. It has also stifled dissent and
dispersed anti-coup protests.
"Yingluck has not done anything that violates our orders so her
personal trip to Europe has been approved," said army spokesman
Colonel Winthai Suvaree.
"Yingluck is not a wanted person. Of course we will allow her back
into the country. Why would we not?"
Several hours later, the national anti-corruption agency said it
would forward a criminal case against Yingluck, related to a
loss-making state rice-buying scheme, to the attorney general. If
the case is forwarded to a court and she is found guilty, Yingluck
could face time in jail.
It was not clear if the decision by the National Anti-Corruption
Commission (NACC) decision to forward the case would have any
bearing on Yingluck's travel plan. The commission said the decision
to let her go abroad was the military's.
Earlier, General Teerachai Nakwanit, army commander for the region
which includes Bangkok, told Reuters Yingluck was expected to attend
the 65th birthday party in France this month of Thaksin Shinawatra,
removed by a 2006 military coup.
Thaksin has lived in self-exile since 2008 to avoid serving a
sentence for corruption.
The ouster of Yingluck's government was the latest twist in a
decade-long power struggle pitting Thaksin, who gained widespread
popularity for providing social benefits in impoverished rural
regions, against 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
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Protesters wanted to eradicate the influence of her family,
including Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire. He is
free to return to Thailand, but faces the prospect of time in prison
if he does.
At least 30 people were killed in sporadic violence
over the months of unrest and the economy was badly bruised.
The United States and European Union have led international
condemnation of the army's seizure of power and downgraded
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 the country.
Yingluck, 47, has been under investigation by Thailand's
anti-corruption agency over a rice-buying program which offered
farmers a price for their rice well above the market level.
Wicha Mahakun, a member of National Anti-Corruption Commission, said
the agency would forward her case to the attorney-general who would
consider whether to pursue criminal charges against Yingluck for
dereliction of duty.
"It is important for the prime minister to consider policy carefully
but the defendant chose to continue the scheme which caused huge
damage to the state," Wicha told reporters.
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.
(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre;
Editing by Robert Birsel and Ron Popeski)
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