Thai ex-PM starts trial for role in rice subsidy scheme

2015-05-19 13:52
(Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP)

(Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP)

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Bangkok - Thailand's former PM Yingluck Shinawatra entered a plea of not guilty on Tuesday at the start of a trial that could see her jailed for a decade, which critics say is part of a politically motivated campaign against her family.

Supporters chanted "Yingluck! Yingluck!" as the ex-premier entered the Supreme Court in Bangkok to be formally read the charges against her of dereliction of duty in overseeing a rice subsidy scheme that lost billions of dollars.

"I am confident in my innocence," Yingluck told reporters. "I hope the court will grant me justice, and that everything will go according to due process under the law."

Possible 10 year sentence

Yingluck was ousted from her post as prime minister by a court decision that came two weeks before the military staged a coup last May.

She is being charged with dereliction in overseeing the controversial rice subsidy program, which temporarily cost Thailand its crown as the world's top exporter. The same charges also led to her impeachment in January by the military-appointed legislature, which banned her from politics for five years.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty, a ruling that would deepen the country's decade-long political crisis.

Her supporters see the case as part of an attempt by the pro-establishment elite to dismantle the political legacy of her family, which has repeatedly won landslide victories in several general elections over the last decade.

Program assisted win

The program was a flagship policy that helped Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party win elections in 2011, and Yingluck has argued it was aimed at helping poor farmers who were paid about 50% above what they would get on the world market.

The program, however, racked up losses of at least $4.46 billion as the Thai government stockpiled mass quantities of rice. Prosecutors said Yingluck ignored multiple warnings from several state agencies about possible corruption - none of which has yet been proven in court.

Earlier this year, the National Anti-Corruption Commission recommended that the Finance Ministry sue her personally for at least 600 billion baht ($18.4 billion).

Read more on:    yingluck shinawatra  |  thailand

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