Ex-Thai PM Yingluck indicted for dereliction of duty

By Arnaud Dubus, Thursday, May 08, 2014

Case relates to rice-subsidies scheme which has been criticized for opening door to corruption

Case relates to rice-subsidies scheme which has been criticized for opening door to corruption

BANGKOK - The day after being dismissed from her post as prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra was indicted Thursday for dereliction of duty, the case to be forwarded to the Thai Senate for impeachment.

Anti-Corruption Commission spokesman Vicha Mahakhun said that the decision by the court's judges had been unanimous.

The case relates to the government’s rice-subsidies scheme, which caused massive financial losses to Thailand and has been criticized for opening the door to corruption. Yingluck is accused of having done nothing to stop the problem, despite being aware of the problems it was causing.

Commissioner Preecha Lertkamolmas said that a decision on whether criminal charges will also be filed against Yingluck and some of her ministers would be taken later.

The scheme was initiated soon after Yingluck's Puea Thai (For the Thais) party won 2011 elections. Under the scheme, the government bought rice directly from farmers at a price 50 percent higher than market value. At first, the program proved popular, but quickly ran into hundreds of billions of baht (billions of euros) in financial losses.

The indictment is the last of a series of initiatives by organisations directly or indirectly linked to the judiciary against Yingluck’s government. 

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court dismissed her for abuse of power in relation to the transfer of a high ranking civil servant in 2011. The transfer allowed the brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister from 2001 to 2006 and Yingluck’s elder brother, to become police chief.

The court considered that “the transfer had benefitted a prime minister relative” and dismissed Yingluck and nine of her ministers who endorsed the transfer.

Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaison was appointed Wednesday to replace Yingluck as premier. Although dismissed, she has not been banned from political activities and could in theory be a candidate for the next legislative elections which are planned for July 20. 

Talking to media Wednesday evening, she was non-committal about her future political activities. 

“Things are happening very fast. It is too early to answer this question,” she said.

Yingluck’s government has faced a wave of opposition protests since it pushed through an amnesty in 2013 that would have lifted a 2008 corruption conviction against Thaksin - a divisive figure in Thai politics who was overthrown in a coup in 2006. He is currently living in exile, mostly in Dubai. Confronted by massive demonstrations, the government withdrew the bill, but the opposition has alleged corruption by the government and Shinawatra family.

Yingluck dissolved parliament December 9 and called February 2 elections, which were disrupted by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee. On March 21, the Constitutional Court nullified the elections, saying that they breached a constitutional clause requiring that they are completed "within one day throughout the nation."

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