Fugitive former leader Yingluck in Dubai

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Bangkok — Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra appears to be staying in the Mideast commercial hub of Dubai after fleeing a criminal conviction, according to the first official word on her whereabouts since she missed a court date last month.

“We have received preliminary unofficial reports from the Foreign Ministry indicating that she is in Dubai,” said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who expressed annoyance over being asked about it by reporters. It had been generally assumed that Yingluck was in Dubai or London, since her brother Thaksin maintains residences in both locations.

Yingluck was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison on Wednesday after being convicted of negligence in overseeing the money-losing rice subsidy program.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said Thursday that the Foreign Ministry received assurances from the United Arab Emirates that Yingluck would not interfere with Thai politics from abroad.  Officials in Dubai did not respond to questions about Yingluck’s whereabouts.

Police searched Yingluck’s Bangkok home on Thursday to collect evidence against a deputy police commander who is accused of aiding her escape by using false documents. Police Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said the police search was not an attack on Yingluck but that police were “investigating a criminal case against a deputy commander who has been formally charged.”

Yingluck’s prospects of returning without facing arrest seemed to dim Thursday as a new law was published applying to political office-holders who have been convicted of a crime. The law stipulates that the statute of limitations does not expire in cases where the defendant flees. Appeals are allowed within 30 days, but the defendant must provide new evidence and submit the appeal in person. The law as written appears to apply to Yingluck’s case.

The Foreign Ministry said it would also revoke Yingluck’s passport once it is told to do so by the courts, police or involved security officials.