BANGKOK – Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission has unanimously found former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra “guilty of negligence” in connection with the country’s ill-fated rice pledging scheme.
The former Prime Minister now faces prosecution on charges of dereliction of duty for her role in the botched scheme, which guaranteed rice farmers inflated prices for their crops. The NACC said estimated that the scheme caused 500bn baht (US$15.5 billion) in damage to the country.
“The defendant, as prime minister, needs to suspend the program soon after acknowledging that there is corruption and losses from the program, but the defendant insisted on continuing the program, creating further losses,” Tthe Commission said.
The rice program, which paid farmers above-market rates for their crop to lift rural incomes, was one of the main election policies for Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party, and Yingluck led a committee that oversaw the initiative. She defended the program in February, saying it had raised farmers’ incomes and quality of life and that there was no “conspiracy” to allow corruption to occur.
Thailand’s military government earlier granted permission for Yingluck to travel overseas for the first time since they overthrew her government. The NACC insisted that today’s ruling was “nothing at all” to do with the former Prime Minister’s trip to Europe later this month.
Army spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree says the junta has agreed to Yingluck’s request to leave Thailand on a personal trip to Europe in late July to early August. It is believed she is traveling to Paris to attend the 65th birthday celebrations of her exiled brother Thaksin Shinawatra, also a former Prime Minister.
He said Thursday that Yingluck had cooperated with the junta and had complied with an order stopping her from engaging in any political activities. However, the junta has set the condition that Yingluck must return to Thailand by August 10.
Yingluck, the country’s first female leader, was ousted in May in a court case over her abuse of power, a few weeks before the military staged a coup.
Speculation is rife as to whether Yingluck will return to face the charges or impose self-exile, as her brother Thaksin has done for almost a decade.