Millennium Post

Thailand ex-Premier indicted over rice subsidy programme

Thailand ex-Premier indicted over rice subsidy programme
Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was on Thursday indicted for negligence in overseeing a controversial rice subsidy programme that cost billions of dollars and resulted in the country temporarily losing its crown as the world’s top rice exporter to India.

The attorney general pressed criminal charges against the country’s first woman Prime Minister Shinawatra for negligence related to her then government’s money-losing rice subsidy programme, a move likely to raise tension in a deeply divided nation plagued by political turmoil and coups.

Prosecutors submitted 20 boxes of the case’s documents to the Supreme Court’s criminal division for political title holders. Yingluck did not turn up at court on Thursday, and instead sent her lawyer, Norawich Larleng to submit her letter to the attorney general, explaining her reason not to meet the public prosecutor. The letter said Yingluck would appear in the court to prove her innocence once the court agreed to proceed with the trial.

In the formal arraignment, Yingluck was charged with dereliction of duty, causing huge damage to the state in the rice-pledging scheme.

The Supreme Court will make a decision on March 19 whether to accept or reject the lawsuit. Norawich said Yingluck’s decision to not to turn up for the arraignment would not affect her bail if the court decided to proceed with the trial. Yingluck was ousted by a court decision shortly before the military staged a coup last May and seized power from her elected government.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission recommended that the Finance Ministry sue Yingluck for compensation for damage caused by the rice programme and suggested the amount should be at least 600 billion baht ($18.4 billion).

The controversial rice-buying programme, a flagship policy that helped Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party win elections in 2011, had accumulated losses of at least $4.46 billion, as the Thai government stockpiled rice to avoid even bigger losses.

Under the programme, farmers were paid above the market price. The anti-graft body alleged that Yingluck failed to stop massive losses to state coffers. After the programme, Thailand lost its world’s No.1 rice exporter status in 2012 to India while Vietnam was in second place.



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