Yingluck sends open letter to junta chief

Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra offering a traditional greeting on arrival in court last month to face criminal charges stemming from her government's rice subsidy scheme.
Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra offering a traditional greeting on arrival in court last month to face criminal charges stemming from her government's rice subsidy scheme.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • Ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra sent an open letter to junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha yesterday defending her position in a case involving rice subsidies that haemorrhaged 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 into office in a landslide win 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 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 US$16 billion (S$23 billion). It distorted global prices and saw Thailand lose its crown as the world's No. 1 exporter of the grain to India, it adds.

Yingluck said the case against her does not expire for another 15 years. "I insist that I am innocent and am ready to prove it," she 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 case until next November and has not yet set a trial date. The scheme, which bought rice at above-market prices from farmers, left Thailand with around 13 million tonnes in stockpiles.

The Yingluck government was toppled in a May 2014 coup which followed protracted political unrest in Bangkok. Rivalry between the royalist-military 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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Yingluck sends open letter to junta chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe