Yingluck in court over rice subsidy scheme

Ms Yingluck Shinawatra was handed roses by supporters as she arrived at the court yesterday for a case involving her rice subsidy scheme when she was Thailand's premier.
Ms Yingluck Shinawatra was handed roses by supporters as she arrived at the court yesterday for a case involving her rice subsidy scheme when she was Thailand's premier.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Former Thai PM's grain policy led to $22.5 billion losses and huge stockpile

BANGKOK • Thailand's former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday appeared before the Supreme Court to review evidence in a case involving rice subsidies that haemorrhaged billions of dollars and could see her jailed for up to 10 years for negligence.

Ms Yingluck's flagship election policy helped sweep her into office in a landslide in 2011, but its failure saw her banned from politics for five years in January by a legislature appointed by the generals who toppled her government.

The grain policy, which has since been discontinued, aimed to boost farmers' incomes by buying their rice at above market prices.

Ms Yingluck's government was attacked for refusing to abandon the scheme when the rice and debt piled up.

It caused about US$16 billion (S$22.5 billion) in losses and left Thailand with a rice mountain it is still struggling to shift. The stockpile is now at 13.9 million tonnes.

Prosecutors yesterday provided an evidence dossier of 60,000 pages and 23 additional witnesses in the case. "These were not seen or reviewed (by all parties)," Ms Yingluck told reporters, adding: "We are going to hear about this and hope that we will get justice."

She insists she acted honestly in administering the policy, which was widely criticised for distorting global prices and saw Thailand lose its crown as the world's top rice shipper.

Ms Yingluck, 48, was greeted with applause and handed red roses by a crowd of supporters as she arrived at the court.

"I came to give moral support," said supporter Sangiam Thongnak, 61. "She did the right thing."

The former premier's supporters see the court case as another strike by a royalist establishment threatened by the rapid political rise of a clique of upstart capitalists from outside Thailand's traditional patronage network.

She won millions of votes by reviving the populist policies of her billionaire brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, now in self-exile. He was jailed in absentia by the Supreme Court in 2008 for abuse of power, two years after he was ousted in a coup.

Prosecutors expect the Supreme Court proceedings to last at least six months. Some experts have said the junta risks a backlash if Ms Yingluck's supporters perceive the verdict as unfair.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'Yingluck in court over rice subsidy scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe