BANGKOK – Thailand’s Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra appeared at the Supreme Court in the capital Bangkok on Tuesday (May 19), when a trial on criminal negligence looking into her role in a debt-ridden rice subsidy scheme during her administration began.
The Attorney General was readying more than 10 witnesses, along with evidence gathered by the National Anti Corruption Commission.
Pleading not guilty to all charges, Ms Yingluck – sister of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra – was forbidden to leave Thailand unless permission is given by the court. She posted a 30-billion-Baht bail (US$1 billion).
The next hearing dates were set for July 21 and 28. If found guilty, Ms Yingluck could face up to 10 years in jail.
However, her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng is confident that the former Prime Minister will be able to prove her innocence and that the state prosecutor has no case against her.
“We have not seen any evidence over the allegations against Ms Yingluck that her action led to wrongdoing. We do not know who committed the wrongdoing and at what process. There has been no clear proof,” he said.
Mr Norrawit also pointed out that under normal circumstances, the case should be dealt with in parliament like any other government policy.
“Some say the policy was formulated to pave the way for corruption. This accusation is based on the administration of the country. Usually the discussion on the success or failure of any public policy should be conducted by parliament, and not by the court,” he explained.
During her tenure, the administration introduced a rice-pledging programme that guaranteed farmers a fixed price of nearly US$500 per tonne of white rice – around 40 per cent higher than the global market rate – resulting in an estimated US$15 billion loss.
In January, she was impeached over allegations of dereliction of duty and abuse of authority after failing to stop corruption in the government-backed rice subsidy scheme. The impeachment resulted in an automatic five-year ban from politics.
By- Panu Wongcha-um