Former Thailand PM Yingluck a step closer to standing trial, say experts

Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at a funeral ceremony inside a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on Sept 29, 2014. The move to get Ms Yingluck to stand trial in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is
Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at a funeral ceremony inside a Buddhist temple in Bangkok on Sept 29, 2014. The move to get Ms Yingluck to stand trial in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is seen as a step closer to indictment. -- PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The move to get former Thailand prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to stand trial in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions - for alleged negligence to stop corruption and massive losses in the rice-pledging scheme - is seen as a step closer to indictment.

Legal experts say there is a high probability that the joint panel from the Office of the Attorney-General and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) - working together to plug up loopholes in the NACC writ under instruction from the Office - would wrap up the case soon.

The last hurdle the joint panel must overcome is that the Office wants the NACC to agree that Ms Yingluck be indicted on charges of negligence and not corruption.

That does not seem to pose a problem, said NACC secretary-general Sansern Poljiak yesterday. His office had earlier resolved that Ms Yingluck had violated Article 157 of the Criminal Code for dereliction of duty in regard to her failure to stem corruption in the rice scheme.

He said he would check reports that public prosecutors would agree to indict Ms Yingluck if the NACC officially confirmed the former PM is to be indicted on charges of dereliction of duty only - and not corruption.

Mr Sansern said he had not seen an official request from the Office on the indictments, so he would check with his office first. He said the joint panel of the NACC and the Office representatives had not discussed this request.

The panel would meet again early next month.

NACC chairman Panthep Klanarongran said the commission would not interrogate extra witnesses for the rice scheme but it was willing to submit other evidence such as censure motion information.

Mr Panthep insisted the NACC wanted the Office to file an indictment against Ms Yingluck in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

Only if the joint panel officially resolved that it could not agree on the Yingluck case, would the NACC then have authority to bring the case to the court, he added.

The NACC chairman said the next meeting of the joint panel, which is yet to be scheduled, would be its last.

NACC and prosecutors to meet in mid-December.

Ms Panthep said the NACC and the Office would meet on Dec 16 to discuss all cases involving the two agencies and it was likely they would discuss Ms Yingluck's case on that day, too.

In a separate move, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is expected to proceed with impeachment proceedings against Ms Yingluck on Nov 28 over the rice-pledging scheme.

An authorised lawyer to Ms Yingluck yesterday submitted a request with the NLA, asking it to rule on whether its move to call a special session to discuss Ms Yingluck's case on Nov 12 was unconstitutional.

Mr Norawit Lalaeng said he had submitted the request on Nov 5 asking the NLA to rule whether it had authority to impeach Ms Yingluck - but the assembly had not acted on his request. So he requested the NLA president bring his petition to the assembly's attention on Nov 28. "If the assembly votes that the NLA has no authority, the impeachment against Yingluck must be dropped," he said.

NLA whip spokesman Jetn Sirathranont criticised the move, saying it was expected that Ms Yingluck's legal team would try to stall her impeachment. He said Ms Yingluck's impeachment differed from that of former Parliament president Somsak Kiatsuranont and his former deputy Nikom Wairatpanij, in terms of alleged offence.

That was why the NLA had not voted to decide its authority over action to impeach Ms Yingluck.