Come clean on Yingluck

The official version of the "great escape" by ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is coming apart. More importantly, the public is rapidly losing confidence in the government's ability to reconstruct what occurred -- or concoct a credible account.

The mystery Mercedes Benz of Sa Kaeo province is supposedly the only clue that police, the army and intelligence agencies have come up with.

It has been almost four weeks since Ms Yingluck supposedly left the country. In the government's current telling, she was in a Mercedes that passed by a checkpoint manned by Burapha Task Force soldiers on Aug 23.

That was two days before anyone even noticed she was not around to appear for the ruling in her malfeasance case at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is in charge of security, said the Task Force checkpoint is just this side of the Cambodia border. He and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha are intimately familiar with the area. They served there for years, so long they have become the recognised leaders of the Burapha Phaya, Tigers of the East. No one knows that region and its checkpoints better.

But Gen Prawit says that what follows is still only a theory. It is that the Mercedes captured on the checkpoint's CCTV was carrying Ms Yingluck on the first leg of her voyage to -- still presumably -- Dubai. The checkpoint soldiers didn't check the Mercedes because they almost never check vehicles heading out of Thailand, only those coming in.

Of course this theory clashes with the absolute denial by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. He said there is no record and no suspicion of Ms Yingluck passing through his country.

Either Gen Prawit's theory of a covert limousine ride to the border or the Cambodian leader's report is wrong -- or both are. There are plenty of roads, sea lanes and airports leading out of Thailand, so it also is possible both men are wrong.

It is disturbing that the very top men in government have been unable to come up with a believable story about the disappearance of the former prime minister. It is entirely possible they were hoodwinked by Ms Yingluck and her close friends or advisers. The public, however, is rather openly suspicious.

Mainstream media, internet-based forums and discussion groups have openly posited the possibility that the failure to appear for her court date actually works to the benefit of the regime.

Whether that's true is moot. The only important matter at hand is how the former prime minister slipped every shred of surveillance.

Since the May, 2014 coup, much was made both by the military and the complaining Ms Yingluck that shadowing and surveillance was always close by.

Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul initially disclosed officers were withdrawn from Ms Yingluck's Bung Kum home on the day she disappeared. Last week he said he had important information about her departure, but refused to disclose it.

The regime is rapidly losing public trust on the issue. Gen Prawit has proved unable to convince the public, which was sceptical to begin with and now has become more cynical. Eventually, because many people conspired to help her departure, the truth will be known.

It would behoove Gen Prayut and his military supporters to come up with the facts now, and lay them out honestly. No government can afford to lose trust on such a matter of public concern.

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