Thailand's military ruler said authorities are searching for Yingluck Shinawatra—the prime minister he ousted three years ago—after she failed to appear for a verdict Friday in a criminal case that could send her to prison for 10 years. Yingluck's whereabouts were not immediately known, and her absence fueled speculation—so far unproven—that she might have left the country, the AP reports. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment. Yingluck, who became Thailand's first female premier when her party swept elections in 2011, is accused of negligence in overseeing a money-losing rice subsidy program. She pleaded innocent and decried the charges as politically motivated.
A verdict had been expected Friday, as thousands of Yingluck supporters gathered outside the court and thousands of police stood guard. But Yingluck never appeared, and a judge read out a statement saying her lawyers had informed the court she could not attend because of an earache. The country's Supreme Court then issued an arrest warrant, saying it did not believe the excuse because no medical verification was provided. Sources close to the Shinawatra family told Reuters that Yingluck has indeed fled the country, though they didn't comment on her current whereabouts. (Read more Yingluck Shinawatra stories.)