Tensions rise in Thailand as Yingluck indicted over rice subsidy

Anti-corruption panel finds Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of dereliction of duty over scheme that caused massive losses to government.
Anti-government protesters carry signs against ousted the Yingluck Shinawatra as they march in central Bangkok on May 8, 2014. Damir Sagolj / Reuters
Anti-government protesters carry signs against ousted the Yingluck Shinawatra as they march in central Bangkok on May 8, 2014. Damir Sagolj / Reuters
BANGKOK // Thailand’s anti-graft commission indicted ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday on charges of dereliction of duty in overseeing a widely criticised rice subsidy programme, a day after a court forced her from office.

Ms Yingluck was accused of allowing the rice programme, a flagship policy of her administration, to proceed despite advice that it was potentially wasteful and prone to corruption.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission’s action had little immediate consequence following Ms Yingluck’s removal from power. But it is likely to further poison a badly polarised political atmosphere. Many of her supporters already believe that the country’s conservative establishment is bending the rules to take back power.

A consistent string of decisions by the courts and independent agencies such as the anti-graft commission against Ms Yingluck and her political machine has eroded many people’s faith in the rule of law, raising the possibility of heightened civil unrest. Grenades were fired on Thursday night by unknown people at three targets associated with the royalist establishment.

Rallies planned by Ms Yingluck’s opponents for Friday and her supporters for Saturday will be a test of the political volatility.

The government lost billions of dollars on the rice subsidy plan, which also cost Thailand its position as the world’s leading rice exporter as the artificially high prices forced the government to stockpile the commodity.

National Anti-Corruption Commission chief Panthep Klanarongran said the commissioners voted unanimously that there were enough grounds to indict Ms Yingluck.

They said Yingluck, as head of government and in her capacity as chairwoman of the National Rice Policy Committee, failed to cancel the rice subsidy scheme despite learning it could pose a great risk to the country’s fiscal status.

The commission, however, said it was unclear whether Yingluck was involved in corruption or had allowed it to take place.

Criticism of the commission has focused on whether it is appropriate for a small unelected body, instead of voters, to sit in judgment of government policies.

The ruling means Ms Yingluck will face an impeachment vote by the Senate. If found guilty by a three-fifths vote, she would be barred from politics for five years.

* Associated Press

Published: May 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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