Asia Ex-Thai PM accused of negligence hopes for fair trial

Ex-Thai PM accused of negligence hopes for fair trial


Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck arrives at the Royal Thai Air Force headquarters before a cabinet meeting in Bangkok
Thailand’s former premier Yingluck Shinawatra

(AA) – Thailand’s former premier Yingluck Shinawatra expressed hope Thursday that she will be given a “fair and transparent trial,” hours after the Supreme Court accepted charges of negligence and abuse of power against her over a loss-ridden rice-subsidies scheme.

If convicted, Yingluck — who was recently banned from political activities for five years – could face a jail sentence of up to ten years.

After Thursday’s ruling, she wrote on her Facebook page: “I only hope that during the trial I will be given true justice and the opportunity to present facts, arguments and evidence to fight the case.”

She added that she was “still confident of my innocence and will provide evidence to prove that I have not done anything wrong.”

Nine Supreme Court judges had earlier decided to accept the attorney general’s office charges against Yingluck for not having stopped the government scheme, which the finance ministry has said cost the state $15.8 billion in losses between July 2011 and December 2013. 

Judge Veeraphol Tangsuwant told a court room filled with reporters: “the panel of judges has decided that this case falls within our authority. We accept this case.”

The former premier — overthrown in a coup last May – was not present at the session, which she was not required by law to attend.  

The case is the latest in a series of legal actions against Yingluck — the sister of establishment nemesis Thaksin Shinawatra, a deeply divisive figure who was the prime minister between 2001 and 2006, before he was deposed in a coup.

It was initiated by the Anti-Corruption Commission, which launched an impeachment process against Yingluck over the subsidies scheme at a military-appointed national assembly.

Last January, the assembly voted to impeach her retroactively.

Although the attorney general’s office sent the criminal file back to the Anti-Corruption Commission last year due to “lack of evidence,” it formally pressed charges last month after a joint meeting with commissioners.

In her Facebook post Thursday, Yingluck warned of far-reaching consequences in the case of her sentencing.

“This case will have a wide impact on the country’s economic and political systems, as well as on farmers and on all people in general. It will also serve as a precedent for the formulation of policies to help the people in the future,” she wrote.

She also criticized the weak legal basis for the indictment, citing an investigation report which included comments by the Commission.

“The report said that there was ‘no evidence’ that I had been corrupt or ‘allowed anyone to be corrupt,’ but the commission still found me guilty,” she added.

During the impeachment process Jan. 23, the Commission’s secretary-general Vicha Mahakun recognized that there was no concrete evidence against Yingluck in the rice-subsidies case, but added that “[her] behaviour signifies a strong suspicion of corruption.”

Last month, the commission announced it would ask the finance ministry to file a civil suit for “$18 billion in financial losses,” which its own investigation allegedly found to have been caused by the same agricultural scheme.

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