Ousted Thai PM de­fends rice scheme in open let­ter to junta leader

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BANGKOK: Ousted Thai Prime Min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra sent an open let­ter to junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha yes­ter­day de­fend­ing her po­si­tion in a case in­volv­ing rice sub­si­dies that hem­or­rhaged bil­lions of dol­lars and could see her jailed for up to 10 years. Thai­land’s first woman prime min­is­ter faces crim­i­nal charges in the Supreme Court over her man­age­ment of the rice scheme, a flag­ship elec­tion pol­icy that helped sweep her to of­fice in a land­slide in 2011. She was banned from pol­i­tics for five years in Jan­uary af­ter a mil­i­tary-ap­pointed leg­is­la­ture found her guilty of mis­man­ag­ing the scheme. Yingluck, in a let­ter posted on Face­book, said that the at­tor­ney gen­eral was de­lib­er­ately rush­ing the case against her and to­tal losses caused by the rice scheme were still un­known.

The mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment says the scheme was rid­dled with graft and in­curred losses of $16 bil­lion dol­lars. It dis­torted global prices and saw Thai­land lose its crown as the world’s num­ber one ex­porter of the grain to In­dia. Yingluck, who has de­fended the scheme, said the case against her does not ex­pire for an­other 15 years. “I in­sist that I am in­no­cent and am ready to prove it,” Yingluck said. “Rush­ing the le­gal process lim­its my chance to de­fend my po­si­tion to the best of my abil­i­ties, which goes against ba­sic hu­man rights.” The Supreme Court has said it will re­view ev­i­dence and wit­nesses in the Yingluck case un­til Novem­ber 2016 and has not yet set a trial date. The rice sub­sidy scheme, which bought rice at above-mar­ket prices from farm­ers, left Thai­land with around 13 mil­lion tonnes in stock­piles which the gov­ern­ment is still strug­gling to shift.

Yingluck’s gov­ern­ment was top­pled in a May 2014 coup which fol­lowed pro­tracted po­lit­i­cal un­rest in Bangkok. Ri­valry be­tween the roy­al­ist­mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment and the Shi­nawa­tra fam­ily, in par­tic­u­lar Yingluck’s brother, ousted pop­ulist premier Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, has been at the heart of a decade of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil in Thai­land. —Reuters

MANILA: Philip­pine po­lice­men who will be se­cur­ing venues and routes of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) sum­mit re­ceive the flu vac­cine at a com­mand cen­tre in Manila yes­ter­day ahead of the sum­mit next week. About 18,000 po­lice are be­ing drafted in to guard the sum­mit venues, ho­tels and routes. —AFP

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