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Thai Court Charges Ex-Premier Yingluck With Negligence

The Office of the Attorney-General of Thailand holds a news conference on Thursday about the Supreme Court's decision to accept a criminal charge against Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The Office of the Attorney-General of Thailand holds a news conference on Thursday about the Supreme Court's decision to accept a criminal charge against Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will stand trial for her role overseeing a populist rice-subsidy program that was mishandled, costing the government billions of dollars.

The country's Supreme Court made the announcement today, saying the trial would be held in May. Yingluck was ousted by the court last May, days before the army launched a coup against what remained of her government. and she was impeached by the legislature in January, months after she had been forced out. She was found guilty and banned from politics for five years.

In a posting Thursday on her Facebook page that was written in Thai and translated by The Associated Press, Yingluck proclaimed her innocence, saying the move was "politically intended to destroy me."

Yingluck faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. She was first charged in the case in February.

Reporting for NPR from Thailand, Michael Sullivan says the rice program, in which mainly poor farmers from Thailand's rural northeast were paid double the market price for their crops, "was badly bungled."

However, both Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, another former prime minister who was also ousted by the military, are reviled by Thailand's current rulers. Those in charge now see the rice scheme, and an earlier program to provide inexpensive healthcare to rural people, as pandering to Thailand's poor in exchange for their votes.

"The antipathy toward Yingluck and her family, especially her brother, Thaksin, is palpable among segments of the Thai elite. Critics accuse the family of corruption and abuse of power," Michael reports.

Yingluck, in a statement to the Supreme Court, said her government's rice policy was meant to strengthen the country's economic foundation and to improve the quality of farmers' lives, according to The Bangkok Post.

She said she doubted the "rule of law" would prevail in the case and pointed to an earlier report by a Thai anti-corruption commission that had exonerated her of wrongdoing in relation to the program.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.