Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has left Thailand and is unlikely to be in any of the neighbouring countries, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan confirmed hours after the Supreme Court issued a warrant for her arrest on Friday.
Citing unnamed sources from the Shinawatra family and military government, the Bangkok Post, a major English language newspaper, reported on Saturday's front page that Yingluck had fled the country to Cambodia on Wednesday, two days before the scheduled verdict.
Her lawyer filed a motion claiming that Ms Yingluck was sick as result of Meniere's disease, with symptoms of dizziness and severe headaches, and could not travel to the court. But sources tell Reuters that Shinawatra flew via Singapore to Dubai to join her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who's also avoiding a 2008 jail sentence for corruption and lives in self-imposed exile.
In an unexpected move, Yingluck chose a third option: skipping out on the court's verdict Friday and, according to a member of her political party, fleeing into exile overseas.
She allegedly escaped on August 23 with her 15-year-old son over Singapore and flew from there directly to Dubai, CNN said.
"I was told this morning that she was ill, that she had vertigo, that she felt dizzy, so I requested the postponement. that's all I have to say", he said.
The court has scheduled a new verdict hearing for September 27.
Overthrown in 2014, Yingluck had faced up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the military chief who engineered the 2014 overthrow of Yingluck's government, said the junta was "looking for her".
"This morning I thought it was fearless of her to show up in court, but it turned out she did not".
When she failed to appear in court, an arrest warrant was issued and her bail was confiscated. "If this is the case, the government must hunt down the traitor and punish the person, otherwise the NCPO will end up being the defendant", Veera said, using the acronym for the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta calls itself. Yingluck could face up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted of negligence in implementing a rice subsidy program that is alleged to have lost billions of dollars. "If she's not here, what does that tell you?" He said he was unaware whether she was still in the country.
The trial is the latest chapter in a decade-long struggle by the nation's elite minority to crush the powerful political machine founded by Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a 2006 coup.
The anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will not rule out a return until the Shinawatras and their nominees leave the political scene.
Thaksin is blamed by Bangkok's elites for orchestrating the Kingdom's past decade of political turbulence, even though he has lived overseas for much of it to evade a graft-related jail sentence. He says they want to give Yingluck moral support "because she truly cared and helped us out". Her former commerce minister was jailed for 42 years in a related case on Friday.