Thailand's ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra missed a court appearance in a negligence trial on Friday that could have seen her jailed, prompting the Supreme Court to issue an arrest warrant amid snowballing speculation that she has fled the country.
Her whereabouts are now unknown, but there have been widespread rumors that she has left the country and there has been speculation that she is in Singapore.
Yingluck Shinawatra was Prime Minister of Thailand from August 2011 to May 2014, when she was removed from office amid an abuse of power scandal.
This blanket amnesty would have set her brother. among others on both sides of the political lie, free from all pending charges.
Outside the courthouse, Yingluck's lawyer said she was suffering from Ménière's disease and that severe headaches kept her from court.
The judge said the court did not believe the excuse because no official medical verification was provided. He said a warrant would be issued for her arrest, and announced the trial would be postponed until September 27.
"We have to make sure that Yingluck is no longer in Thailand", said Siriam Chumsri.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said it was likely Ms Yingluck had already left the country.
During her trial, Yingluck repeatedly said she would not take flight.
Yingluck and her aides previously told the media she would not flee. He had earlier said only that he had no confirmation of her whereabouts.
"The Thai prime minister has done her best, she has sacrificed a lot", said Seksan Chalitaporn, 64. He said security officials had not seen her leave her Bangkok home in the last two days. Yingluck's supporters believe the case is politically motivated.
The struggle between that movement and a Bangkok-centered royalist and pro-military elite has been at the heart of years of turmoil in Thailand. One year later, she was impeached by the military-appointed legislature over the controversial rice scheme, which saw the government paying farmers almost twice the market rate for their crop.
Yingluck's no-show was a "big surprise" to most people in Thailand, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University told CNN. The long-awaited decision on Yingluck's fate has rekindled tensions in the divided nation, but the military remains firmly in charge.
The Supreme Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Yingluck.
"I stand firm to fight my case".
Thousands of people turned up outside the Bangkok court house anyway, though, along with thousands of police who erected barricades around the court. "We think that the defendant is hiding or has fled".
Yingluck came to power in 2011 and soon after delved into the controversial rice subsidy program, which wreaked havoc on the country's rice market.
Critics say they were effectively a means of vote-buying, while Shinawatra supporters welcomed them. For those of a more generous mindset who recognise the political can of worms the military seized, Yingluck's persistent presence will be a thorn in the side of a country in much need of political and social reform.