Former Thai PM Yingluck questions junta move to freeze bank accounts

Ousted former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 21, 2017.
Ousted former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday (July 25) questioned a move by Thailand's military government to freeze her assets in relation to a 35 billion baht (S$1.42 billion) fine it imposed over her government's rice-buying scheme.

Yingluck, whose administration was ousted in a 2014 coup, was banned from politics for five years in 2015 after a military-appointed legislature found her guilty of mismanaging the rice scheme.

Yingluck denies she is guilty. Her supporters accuse her opponents of political persecution and the courts of bias in frequently ruling against Yingluck and her family members.

Last year, a state-appointed committee recommended she pay a 35 billion baht fine or about 20 per cent of the 178 billion baht that it said the schemes cost the state in 2012 and 2013.

The justice ministry on Monday began freezing several of her bank accounts.

She had filed a court petition to revoke the action to freeze her bank accounts, saying the move was unlawful.

"The government has chosen to go ahead with it because they think they have the power to do whatever they want, without even waiting on the court's decision on my injunction request," Yingluck wrote on her official Facebook page, adding that she would continue the fight to prove her innocence.

Yingluck is currently fighting a criminal charge for alleged negligence over the rice scheme. The Supreme Court is due to give its verdict on Aug 25.

"This action creates a condition that could influence the Supreme Court decision on the rice case," Yingluck wrote, referring to the criminal case.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha warned Yingluck’s supporters against gathering outside the court for the verdict. “If people want to come on their own, then that’s OK, but enticing others is illegal,” he added.

Yingluck's Puea Thai Party swept to power in 2011 in part by appealing to rural voters with the rice-buying scheme which eventually saw her government buy rice from farmers at up to 50 per cent above market prices. It resulted in 18 million tonnes of the grain in stockpiles, which the military government has been trying to offload since 2014.

The military-backed Bangkok establishment, which took part in protests in 2013/14 that helped to overthrow the Yingluck government, called the subsidies wasteful and corrupt.

Her supporters say the ruling junta has deliberately targeted Yingluck and wants to silence her family's political machine.

Voters in the north-east told Reuters earlier this month that the trial against Yingluck had failed to break her family's political machine.

Yingluck will deliver her closing statement in the criminal case against her next week.