By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE FIVE-YEAR jail term handed out to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra did not surprise her supporters, who lingered to hear the verdict in front of the Supreme Court yesterday, because they claimed to have “lost faith in Thai justice” a long time ago.
The crowd’s size was relatively small compared to that on August 25, the day her verdict was originally meant to be read, when thousands of supporters waited to see their beloved leader who never turned up and has not been seen in public since.
The verdict in Yingluck’s case concerning negligence over her government’s rice-pledging scheme was rescheduled to yesterday, when only about 100 supporters stood outside in the sun in front of the court building.
They were aware that Yingluck would be nowhere to be seen. Pheu Thai Party politicians and red-shirt figures did not travel to the court as they had on previous occasions.
Only ex-MP Suchat Lainamngern was there – of his own accord, not as a party representative.
The judgment reading took almost four hours, and the number of supporters shrank to a couple of dozen by the time the court distributed briefings of the official ruling.
Around a hundred of metropolitan policemen stood in rows in case any scene erupted, but it all went by quietly. Yingluck’s fans simply shrugged as they read the paper, saying that such a “harsh punishment against the innocent” was nothing more than they expected.
One by one, they started packing up and went back home in peace.
“At least Yingluck is away for now and she does not have to face this punishment,” said a woman who introduced herself as Roong, a 48-year-old coconut milk seller from Ratchaburi.
“I guess that’s why we supporters are not hugely disappointed. For now, we can only accept the ruling. I just wish that Yingluck is safe and sound. Maybe her brother, Thaksin, might speak up shortly,” Roong continued.
Roong, along with other supporters, wore t-shirts printed with a message, “[We] miss the overseas ones”, in reference to the Shinawatra siblings, Yingluck and Thaksin. “Love Poo [Yingluck’s nickname] Dubai!” The crowd had shouted in the morning in the belief that Yingluck is now safe with her brother in the United Arab Emirates.
Crystal, a 52-year-old tour guide, said she has come to support Yingluck as she had relatively little to do.
“I don’t have many tourist customers in recent months. The economy is certainly going down,” she said.
Crystal said she felt that westerners with purchasing power had tended to travel less to Thailand, partly due to the undemocratic situation in the Kingdom.
“The coup and the junta ruling have caused foreign countries to issue warnings and notes to their citizens,” she said “As a tour guide myself, I can feel this decrease of tourists via my job.”
Thi, a 62-year-old Bangkok woman, simply said that the ruling was “not fair” to the former premier for “merely proceeding policies as declared to the parliament”.
Like many supporters, Thi believed that Yingluck did not have a role in the operation of the controversial rice-pledging scheme that was ruled to have brought multi-billion baht damages to the country. Despite this affirmation and the long fight, Thi admitted that Yingluck herself and the bloc might need to keep a low-profile for now.
“It’s still not our time,” she said.
The ruling may mark the end of the Yingluck rice-pledging saga, but it did not end the hopes and faith of Pheu Thai Party supporters who still trust the leaders they voted for and continue to back the policies that, in their view, favour low-income people, especially rice farmers.