Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thailand ex-PM Yingluck faces corruption charge

Thailand ex-PM Yingluck faces corruption charge
Thai ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra meets her supporters at the Defence Permanent Secretary Office in Bangkok, Thailand, 7 May 2014 Ms Yingluck was ousted by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday

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Thailand's anti-graft body has indicted ousted leader Yingluck Shinawatra over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

The case will now be voted on at the Senate. If impeached, Ms Yingluck will be barred from politics for five years.

On Wednesday, a Thai court ordered Ms Yingluck and several cabinet ministers to step down over separate charges.

Thailand has been in political turmoil since anti-government protests erupted in November 2013. In February, snap elections were annulled.

'Enough evidence'

Thailand's troubles

  • Sep 2006: Army ousts Thaksin Shinawatra
  • Dec 2007: Pro-Thaksin party wins election
  • Aug 2008: Thaksin flees Thailand
  • Dec 2008: Huge anti-Thaksin protests; court bans ruling party; Abhisit Vejjajiva comes to power
  • Mar-May 2010: Huge pro-Thaksin protests; more than 90 killed over 10-week period
  • Jul 2011: Yingluck Shinawatra elected PM
  • Nov 2013: Anti-government protests
  • Feb 2014: Snap election held, but protesters disrupt polls; court rules polls invalid
  • May 2014: PM ordered to step down
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) unanimously voted to indict Ms Yingluck, the commission's chief said on Thursday.

"The committee has investigated and there is enough evidence to make a case ... We will now forward it to the Senate," Panthep Klanarong said.

The NACC is also considering whether to file criminal charges against Ms Yingluck.

Ms Yingluck has previously said she was only in charge of formulating the policy, not the day-to-day running of the scheme, and has said that the commission treated her unfairly.

Under the rice subsidy scheme, the government bought rice from Thai farmers at a much higher price than on the global market.

However, it resulted in the accumulation of huge stockpiles of rice and hit Thailand's rice exports hard.

Critics said the scheme was too expensive and vulnerable to corruption.
Anti-government protesters carry signs against ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as they march in central Bangkok, 8 May 2014 Anti-government demonstrations have called for Ms Yingluck's removal since November
Farmers rearrange a pile of rice during a rally in Bangkok, 11 March 2014 Thailand's rice exports suffered after the government stockpiled supplies as part of its subsidy scheme
A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok, 6 April 2014 Government supporters, known as "red shirts", have planned a mass rally on Saturday
Separately, on Wednesday, Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled that Ms Yingluck acted illegally when she transferred her national security head to another position in 2011.

Ms Yingluck stepped down, and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan replaced her as prime minister.

Ms Yingluck's supporters believe the courts are biased against her.

Clashes feared Ms Yingluck leads the ruling Pheu Thai Party, which won elections in 2011.
It commands strong support from rural voters, especially in Thailand's north and north-east.

However, anti-government protesters, who tend to be urban and middle-class voters, have protested against Ms Yingluck's administration for months, occupying official buildings and disrupting elections in February.

They say ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who is also Ms Yingluck's brother, is still controlling the government, and that the ruling party has been buying votes with irresponsible spending pledges aimed at its support base.

Both sides have planned rallies this week, and there are fears that clashes could occur.

The government has scheduled elections for 20 July after the February vote was declared unconstitutional.

However, the opposition says it will not contest the polls and that political reforms need to be introduced first.
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