Thailand's fugitive ex-premier gets Serbian citizenship

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was sentenced in Thailand to five years in prison on graft-related charges, has received Serbian citizenship.

State news agency Tanjug reported Thursday that the Serbian government granted her the citizenship "because it could be in the interest of Serbia." Serbian officials did not comment on the reason behind the decision.

A government decree confirming she was granted citizenship was published in June in Serbia's official gazette.

With the Serbian passport, Shinawatra can travel without a visa to over 100 countries, including most of members of the European Union.

She fled Thailand in 2017 days before she was convicted of running a rice subsidy scheme that cost Thailand billions of dollars. She and her supporters say the case was politically motivated.

She skipped bail and reportedly went to London via Dubai, where her billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, resides in self-imposed exile after fleeing Thailand also facing corruption charges.

Her current whereabouts are unknown.

They were both elected premier, but were toppled in military coups — Thaksin in 2006 and Yingluck in 2014. Although they live in exile, the two retain significant support in rural and poorer parts of Thailand.

Thaksin has citizenship of another Balkan country, Montenegro, which he received in 2009.