الإثنين , يونيو 15 2020

Ex-Thai PM in rice scheme hearing



Yingluck Shinawatra

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The BBC’s Jonathan Head: “She was prime minister for nearly 1,000 days”

Thailand’s ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is at the National Assembly to face an impeachment hearing.

She was removed from office for abuse of power in May, days before the army seized control saying it needed to restore order after months of unrest.

She is accused of dereliction of duty over a controversial rice subsidy scheme which critics say cost billions of dollars.

Her supporters say the court action is a ruse to remove her from politics.

If found guilty she could be banned from political activity for five years.

There are fears a conviction could re-ignite the street protests which have repeatedly paralysed the capital, Bangkok, in recent years.

Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister in the military junta that now runs Thailand, urged her supporters to stay at home.

“If you want to give her encouragement you can do so from home or over the telephone,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says this is the first real divisive issue that has been allowed to bubble to the surface since the military took over and effectively suppressed all political debate.



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Students in Thailand have been demanding democracy amid military rule

Ms Yingluck is the sister of another ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was removed from office in 2006.

Both remain hugely popular among Thailand’s rural poor, but are hated by an urban and middle-class elite who accuse them of corruption and abuse of power.

The National Legislative Assembly, which has been hand-picked by military leaders, has said a decision could come by the end of January.

Scheme ‘corrupt’

Ms Yingluck was removed from office in early May after the Constitutional Court ruled she had acted illegally when she transferred her national security head.

The ruling followed months of political deadlock. Anti-government protesters had been trying to oust Ms Yingluck since November 2013.

This case concerns the rice subsidy scheme, under which Ms Yingluck’s government bought rice from Thai farmers – the Shinawatra family support base – at a much higher price than on the global market.

Thaksin Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand, speaks during an interview in Singapore, on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012.The Shinawatra family is very popular among rural Thais because of their populist programmes

However, it resulted in the accumulation of huge stockpiles of rice and hit Thailand’s rice exports hard.

Critics said the scheme was too expensive and vulnerable to corruption.

Ms Yingluck has always maintained that she was not involved in the day-to-day running of the rice subsidy scheme and that abuses were not her responsibility.

Her supporters say only a sitting prime minister can face impeachment and that she is being tried under the old constitution, which was thrown out when the army took power.

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