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rice subsidy scheme


Thailand’s ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra has pleaded not guilty in a brief hearing at the start of her trial on charges of negligence.

Yingluck Shinawatra, 47, faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of dereliction of duty over her role in a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

The former prime minister told crowds outside the court in Bangkok she would prove her innocence.

Yingluck Shinawatra was forced to step down last year shortly before a military coup.

She maintains that the charges she faces are intended to keep her out of politics. The next hearing in the trial has been scheduled for July 21.Yingluck Shinawatra negligence trial Thailand

Meanwhile Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra – himself ousted as prime minister by a previous coup in 2006 – has made a rare public appearance in Seoul, South Korea, saying he believed “democracy will prevail” in Thailand.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court forced Yingluck Shinawatra from office in early May 2014 after finding her guilty of abusing her power. Weeks later, the military seized power saying it needed to restore order following months of street protests.

In January 2015, Yingluck Shinawatra was retroactively impeached by a military-appointed legislature for her role in the rice subsidy scheme. She was also banned from politics for five years.

The scheme paid rice farmers in rural areas – where Yingluck Shinawatra’s party has most of its support – twice the market rate for their crops, in a program that cost the government billions of dollars.

Arriving at the Supreme Court on May 19, Yingluck Shinawatra told journalists she was confident of her innocence.

“I prepared myself well today and am ready to defend myself,” Reuters quoted the former prime minister as saying.

“I hope that I will be awarded justice.”

A small group of her supporters outside the court chanted “Yingluck, fight, fight!” as she arrived, though political gatherings are illegal under Thailand’s military rule.

Yingluck Shinawatra says she was not involved in the scheme’s day-to-day operations and has defended it as an attempt to support the rural poor.

Thaksin Shinawatra was removed by a previous coup in 2006. He now lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

However, the influence of the family persists, with parties allied to the Shinawatras winning every election since 2001.

They are loved in the rural north for their populist policies, but hated by Thailand’s elite who accuse them of corruption.

Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra has been indicted over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

If found guilty on the charge of negligence, Yingluck Shinawatra could be jailed for up to 10 years.

The anti-corruption agency has also called for Yingluck Shinawatra to be personally liable for losses to state coffers.

Yingluck Shinawatra was removed by a court in May 2014, shortly before the military ousted her elected government.

She was later impeached over the rice subsidy scheme and banned from politics for five years. Thailand, meanwhile, remains under martial law in the wake of the coup.

Yingluck Shinawatra was not at Bangkok’s Supreme Court to hear the indictment.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Under the rice subsidy scheme Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai-led government bought rice from Thai farmers at above the market rate, costing the government billions of dollars.

Critics accused Yingluck Shinawatra of funneling money to her core supporters. She said the policy was aimed at helping farmers and denied any day-to-day involvement in the running of the scheme.

The Supreme Court will decide on March 19 whether to pursue the criminal case.

Additionally, Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said on February 18 that the ministry had received a letter from the national corruption watchdog urging it to pursue civil suit against Yingluck Shinawatra to recover losses of 600 billion baht ($18.4 billion) related to the scheme.

“The finance ministry oversees damages to the state and is ready to take action,” he said.

The military seized power in May 2014 in what it said was a bid to restore public order after months of occasionally violent street protests against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

Thailand has been embroiled in a cycle of political instability since the military ousted Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, as prime minister in 2006.

The Shinawatra family are hugely popular among Thailand’s rural population but are hated by the urban middle-class and elite who accuse them of corruption.

Thaksin Shinawatra-linked parties, under various different names, have won every election since 2001.

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