Thai former PM Yingluck Shinawatra the rice scheme trial


BANGKOK: Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s ousted former prime minister and sister of fugitive Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said Friday she has received an administrative order from the Finance Ministry on Wednesday, seeking 35.7 billion baht ($1.01 billion) in compensation over a controversial rice-pledging scheme

Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrived at a Bangkok court on Friday, two weeks before the final stages of a case about her involvement in a ruinously expensive state rice subsidy scheme.

Yingluck said she would not make any statements during the mourning period following King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death last week, a statement released by her on Friday said the order “has violated my rights and is not fair.”

“I affirm that I will exercise all my rights to deny these allegations and civil charges,” her statement read.

Yingluck, e government was ousted in a 2014 military coup, faces up to 10 years in prison if she is found guilty of negligence over her role in the scheme, which proved popular with rural voters but was a disaster for state coffers.

Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s former prime minister, now vowed to fight an administrative order demanding she personally pays $1bn over her government’s money-losing rice subsidy scheme.

The plan, which paid farmers above market rates for their rice, was a flagship policy of Yingluck’s administration and helped sweep her to office in a 2011 general election.

Thailand’s first woman prime minister, Yingluck was ousted by a court decision shortly before the military staged a coup in May 2014 and seized power from her elected government.

The former prime minister and opposition say the trial is politically motivated and is aimed at undermining the populist movement that has won every election since 2001. The movement is opposed by Thailand’s powerful military and conservative elite.

Around 500 supporters showed up outside the court on Friday, police said, the largest turnout in many months. One wrote “Love the prime minister” on his hand, while others shouted: “fight, fight”. Yingluck has denied the charges against her.

The military has said it will deploy troops to maintain security on July 21, when a final hearing in the case is expected.

Yingluck’s critics see the rice case as a litmus test of the junta’s sincerity in tackling corruption in politics, one of its promises after it seized power in 2014.

Closing statements in the case will be delivered within 30 days of the final hearing, court officials said.

“I’m confident in the witnesses we’ve presented,” Yingluck told crowds outside the court.

“The encouragement I’ve been given is still good … this is a strong characteristic of the Thai people,” she said.

Successive Thai governments have supported farmers since the 1980s, but none of the schemes has proved as popular with rural voters as the rice programs pioneered by Yingluck’s brother, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yingluck’s government went a step further, promising to buy rice from farmers at some 50 per cent above the market price.

The scheme helped her to sail to victory in a 2011 general election, making her the country’s first female prime minister.

However, public losses from the scheme fueled street protests against Yingluck that eventually saw her removed from power just weeks before the 2014 coup.

The scheme also saw Thailand lose its crown as the world’s top rice exporter as other countries, notably Vietnam and India, filled the void when Thailand held back rice stocks it had bought from farmers.

The military government has managed to sell off most of about 18 million tonnes of rice accumulated during the rice scheme, some of it for industrial purposes, according to the commerce ministry.

Yingluck said on Friday she was not sure when she would deliver her closing statement.

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