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June 23, 2017

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Ousted Thai PM Yingluck vows not to flee country

BANGKOK -- Thailand's deposed former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday ruled out going into self-exile to avoid possible criminal charges, after the country's junta gave her permission to travel overseas.

In her first news conference since the army seized power in May, Yingluck said she would fly to Paris for a "private trip."

She is expected to attend the 65th birthday party of her elder brother, the fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, on July 26.

Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon turned populist politician, was ousted in an earlier coup in 2006 and later fled Thailand to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.

But Yingluck insisted that she would not follow in her brother's footsteps.

"I am a Thai citizen who should have rights and freedoms like any other Thais. I want to reassure you that I will not abandon my fellow Thais and I'm ready to come back to Thailand," she said.

Yingluck, who was indicted for dereliction of duty a day after she was removed from office, could face criminal charges linked to a loss-making rice subsidy scheme.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission said Thursday that it was forwarding that case to the attorney general's office for possible referral to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions.

Yingluck insisted again on her innocence and questioned whether the commission's probe met international standards.

"The investigation is very fast unlike other political cases," she said.

Yingluck said the panel "chose to hear one-sided facts" by considering testimony from her opponents while rejecting other key witnesses.

The junta said Thursday that Yingluck had been given approval to leave the country for the first time since the coup because she had not opposed the military takeover.

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