PM Yingluck: Rice scheme corruption charges

Impeachment possible on rice scheme corruption. NACC to call PM Yingluck to hear charges Feb 27. PM defends rice scheme on TV.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said rice farmers must not be held hostage as part of political games. (Facebook photo)


Yingluck summoned on rice scheme corruption charges


Online news:

The National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) on Tuesday resolved to summon caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to hear formal charges relating to her alleged involvement in government-to-government (G2G) rice sale irregularities.

The NACC announced that Ms Yingluck would be asked to hear two charges by Feb 27. The charges are abuse of power causing corruption - which could result in her impeachment - and malfeasance.

The anti-graft agency is investigating suspected irregularities in the government's rice-pledging scheme after the Democrat Party submitted a petition and evidence asking it to probe the controversial programme.

Once Ms Yingluck acknowledges the charges, the NACC will begin hearing evidence in the case. 

The government signed a contract last November to sell 1.2 million tonnes of 5% white rice to Beijing Great Northern Wilderness Rice Industry, a subsidiary of the state-owned Beidahuang Group. The rice was to be sold on a G2G basis but the value of the deal was not disclosed. 

On Feb 4, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan said China had pulled out of the deal. He claimed China lost confidence in doing business with Thailand after the NACC started investigating the pledging programme.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said rice farmers must not be held hostage as part of political games. (Facebook photo)

In a speech broadcast nationwide by the Television Pool of Thailand this morning, Ms Yingluck defended the rice scheme and claimed farmers are being held hostage as part of a political game played out by those opposed to the government.

This game-playing and manipulation is making it difficult for the caretaker government to implement the popular rice-pledging scheme, she said.

Ms Yingluck said she and the Pheu Thai Party had always been confident that the programme would help lift farmers' incomes and improve their quality of life.

Over the past two years, the scheme had proved a success, allowing farmers to build a solid grassroots economy and boost the country's economic growth, she said.

Ms Yingluck said the two sources of capital for the programme are rice sales handled by the Commerce Ministry and money from the Finance Ministry. The Finance Ministry's role involves financial management, such as the acquisition of loans from various financial institutions to allow the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to pay farmers for pledged rice.

Unfortunately, those seeking the government's removal are obstructing the programme, she said.

"No matter how many obstructions, I will not be discouraged. I will persist in fighting for the farmers," the caretaker prime minister said.

Ms Yingluck said if all banks and their executives took pity on farmers and approved loans to the BAAC, the rice programme would continue unscathed.

"With solid legal guarantees, there is no reason for the banks and their unions to fear that their money will be misused. The government is responsible for every baht.

"Moreover, the country's financial institutions are very strong with high liquidity. They can comfortably provide loans to help farmers without too much risk," she said.

The prime minister added that the government has instructed the BAAC to extend the debt repayment period for farmers by six months while they wait to receive overdue rice payments. 

To enable farmers to access funds to prepare new crops, the BAAC will increase loan limits for existing clients and for growers who are not yet customers of the bank.

Farmers will be able to apply for loans at their local BAAC branch.

Ms Yingluck insisted that she will not allow farmers to be exploited as part of the ongoing political dispute, pleading with all those involved to be more sympathetic to their plight.

About the author

Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer