Yingluck tries to figure out rice policy differences

Yingluck tries to figure out rice policy differences

A farmer from Ubon Ratchathani (left) hugs Yingluck Shinawatra to show her support while the former prime minister arrives at the Supreme Court to defend the rice-pledging scheme.
A farmer from Ubon Ratchathani (left) hugs Yingluck Shinawatra to show her support while the former prime minister arrives at the Supreme Court to defend the rice-pledging scheme.

As Yingluck Shinawatra is battling in court over the debt-ridden rice-pledging scheme, the former prime minister is pondering the differences between what the government is doing and what her administration has done.

Ms Yingluck said on Friday that the storage pledging scheme carried out by the government was based on the same principle as her party's policy when she was in power.

Both were aimed at helping farmers with no hidden agenda to reap benefits from rice growers, she said before entering the Supreme Court to fight a negligence charge over the rice scheme.

Ms Yingluck has been fighting the charge in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. The Office of the Attorney General indicted her for causing damage estimated at 536 billion baht to the country after she ignored warnings from several state agencies.

As rice prices are plunging, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government on Tuesday introduced a storage pledging scheme to help farmers. In addition to price pledging, the policy covers financial aid on harvesting, crop improvements and storage costs.

Ms Yingluck was again in social media limelight on Thursday after pictures of her in tears while buying rice from farmers during her visit to Ubon Ratchathani made the round.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon sarcastically reacted on the same day, suggesting her to buy rice from farmers all over the country if she really wanted to help them.

The former PM on Friday cautiously averted a war of words. "If I were in the government, I would do that. But since I'm only an ordinary citizen now, I'll do the best I can to help them."

The former prime minister denied the entire scene was staged to drum up public sympathy at a time when she is fighting to clear her name in court.

"I was touched by the spirits of the farmers. They got nothing to eat nor money to spend. Yet they came forward to show me their support," she said, when asked whether her crying in Ubon Ratchathani was a "drama".

Farmers from the northeastern province underlined their support for her on Friday by coming to Bangkok in three busloads to greet her at the courthouse.

After hearing prosecution witnesses, the court has been hearing defence witnesses for six weeks on Friday, when former deputy prime minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong was scheduled to take the stand.

But Mr Kittiratt, also a former finance minister, asked the nine-judge panel through his lawyer for a deferral as his mother was seriously ill.

The court approved his request and will later set the date to hear Mr Kittiratt.

On Nov 18, former cabinet secretary-general Ampon Kittiampon and former deputy finance minister Thanusak Lek-uthai are scheduled to take the stand.

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