Bangkok: Thailand’s military and Bangkok establishment appear to have finally crushed the Shinawata family which a decade ago spawned the country’s most powerful political movement, known as “Red Shirts.”
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s failure to turn up in court to hear the verdict at her trial on negligence charges on Friday disappointed and shocked many of her millions of supporters.
“Didn’t you say you are a democratic warrior who was ready to die on the battlefield? Did you trick me?,” asked a prominent “Red-Shirt” media anchor.
But who could blame Thailand’s first female prime minister?
She has been vilified, called obscene names, had her bank accounts frozen, fined US$1 billion and faced 10 years jail – all for presiding over a failed government rice subsidy scheme to benefit farmers when she was in power.
According to multiple sources Ms Yingluck and her 15 year-old son slipped out of Thailand and have flown to Dubai to join her exiled elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.
The junta that overthrew her government in 2014 ridiculed Ms Yingluck for not having the courage to face the verdict, and denied speculation it had facilitated the escape.
But her departure will come as a relief for the military-run government, which put its credibility on the line to pursue the changes against her.
If Ms Yingluck had been sent to jail she would have become a heroine, possibly stoking fresh unrest in the country.
An acquittal when the verdict is delivered next months would anger her opponents.
The trial was seen as a showcase for the national divide, which looks increasingly irreconcilable.
The end of the Shinawatra era is likely to splinter the “Red-Shirt” movement ahead of a promised return to some sort of military-guided democracy next year.
It will throw into doubt the future of Ms Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party which facilitated her landslide election victory in 2011.
Many of its leaders have been either banned from office or jailed as the military sought to eradicate the Shinawatra political machine that has won the last five general elections.
Ms Yingluck’s commerce minister was sentenced to 42 years jail on Friday in a case related to rice subsidy scheme.
But deep divisions remain in the country pitting rural “Red-Shirt” masses against the Bangkok establishment made-up of the military, technocrats, middle-class, old power clique and well-connected business people.
Thai politics will remain trapped in a vicious cycle for the foreseeable future.