Former Thai PM convicted over rice subsidy scheme

28 Sep 17

Thailand’s ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was yesterday sentenced to five years in jail over mishandling a rice subsidy scheme which reportedly cost the country at least $8bn.

The Supreme Court said Yingluck had been aware of falsified and corruption-plagued rice deals, but did not prevent them. She denies all charges of negligence and fled the country before the verdict.

The court stated she had been aware of corruption in government-to-government (G2G) deals with some Chinese state enterprises. It said in a statement this was “a manner of seeking unlawful gains” and “the action of the accused is considered negligence of duty”.

The current military government said the scheme hit Thailand’s rice exports, leading to an estimated loss of at least $8bn.

The rice scheme, which was highly popular with the country’s poor, rural voter base, aimed to alleviate rural poverty by paying farmers nearly twice the market rate for the commodity. The scheme was part of Yingluck’s election campaign, which was launched after she took office in 2011.

In January 2014, Thailand’s anti-corruption authorities started investigations of Yingluck’s connection to the scheme and she was forced to step down in May 2014 after the constitutional court found her guilty of abuse of power in another case.

Yingluck was impeached by an army-backed legislature in January 2015 for corruption over her role in the rice scheme.

The court did not hold the former prime minister responsible for other corrupt activities related to the rice scheme, such as fake reports on pledged rice, because those were the responsibilities of officials at operational levels.

Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, also a former prime minister, was ousted by the military in 2006 over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

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