Court to give ruling on Yingluck in 35 days

Court to give ruling on Yingluck in 35 days

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is surrounded by her supporters when she arrives at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions at the Government Complex on Friday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is surrounded by her supporters when she arrives at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions at the Government Complex on Friday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The Supreme Court will rule whether former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is guilty of neglecting her duty in handling the rice-pledging programme on Aug 25, it announced on Friday.

If found guilty, Ms Yingluck will face a jail term up to 10 years.

The former prime minister will give her closing statement verbally on Aug 1. Both sides may submit written closing statements until Aug 15.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions turned down Ms Yingluck’s request for a Constitutional Court ruling on whether the court’s procedures were in violation of the 2017 constitution.

“The law on the procedures of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions provides it may seek additional facts and evidence as appropriate. The 2017 charter allows the court to do so 'for the benefit of justice'. We decide the clause in the court’s procedures law are not in breach of the constitution,” the court statement said.

The court said it had allowed both sides to bring additional witnesses and evidence. The prosecutor submitted 21 requests to do so and 15 witnesses were heard in 10 hearings. The defendant submitted 51 requests for additional witnesses and 30 witnesses were heard in 16 hearings.

“We gave full opportunities to both sides to bring witnesses for the benefit of justice, the principle of the inquisitorial system.

“The defendant’s petition and its reasons did not meet the criteria of Section 212 of the 2017 constitution, which requires us to give opinions to the Constitutional Court for a ruling. We, therefore, dismissed the defendant’s petition,” it said.

The trial has been going on for a little over two years, with 56 witnesses heard in total.

On Feb 19, 2015, the attorney-general charged Ms Yingluck with dereliction of duty in handling the rice-pledging programme during her administration under Section 157 of the Criminal Code and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) law.

Prosecution witnesses gave testimony at hearings from January to June 2016. The case for the defence began in August 2016 and ended on Friday.

A key prosecution witness was Nipon Puapongsakorn, a former president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, who testified the damage caused by the programme was 530 billion baht, which matched the findings of the Prayut Chan-o-cha government.

NACC commissioner Supa Piyajitti testified that when she was a finance deputy permanent secretary, she submitted a letter to Ms Yingluck’s government warning about the massive damage. She also testified the scheme benefited mostly rich farmers, millers and traders and only a portion of it benefited ordinary farmers.

Another key witness was Prime Minister’s Office permanent secretary Jirachai Moonthongroei, who is also chairman of the committee set up later by the Prayut government to consider civil liabilities of the programme.

He testified the defendant had neglected to take action on corruption and did not stop the project until the damage had already occurred.

On the defence side, Ms Yingluck testified her government had a repayment plan to offset the losses, supervised by the Finance Ministry’s Public Debt Office.

She also said the programme could be stopped only when it was found it violated the declared policy, which it did not.

Former deputy prime minister and finance minister Kittiratt Na Ranong said the programme aimed to help ease disparities. He insisted it was cost-effective and the prime minister had supervised it to ensure transparency.

Olarn Chaipravat, the mastermind of the scheme, said the programme aimed to increase farmers’ incomes as opposed to the price-guarantee programme, which reduced them.

The former banker and head of the Thai trade representatives also said the programme did not ignore rice quality.

Aug 25 is the same day the court has scheduled to give judgement on another rice-related case involving former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and 27 others.

In Mr Boonsong's case, the 28 defendants faced a collusion charge in a separate criminal case involving government-to-government rice sales.

Apart from the criminal cases, those involved in the rice scheme are facing civil liabilities.

The Finance Ministry slapped Ms Yingluck with a civil liabilities order, demanding her pay 35 billion baht in damages for the rice-pledging programme. 

As well, the Commerce Ministry imposed a civil liabilities order on Mr Boonsong, his former deputy and four commerce ministry officials, for damages worth 20 billion baht.

None of them has paid and a process to seize their assets has not begun. 

Supporters greet Yingluck Shinawatra as the former prime minister arrived at the Supreme Court on Friday. (Video by Patipat Janthong)


Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (12)

EC urged to probe micro-parties' cash

The opposition Seri Ruam Thai Party on Monday petitioned the Election Commission (EC) to investigate seven parties for alleged violations of the election law, following claims that the micro-parties' MPs received cash kickbacks in exchange for their support for the government.

08:03

1,955 new Covid cases, 33 more deaths

The country registered 33 more Covid-19 fatalities and 1,955 new cases admitted to hospitals during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry announced on Tuesday morning.

07:53

Beyonce tops US songs chart for first time in over a decade

NEW YORK: After releasing her much-anticipated album "Renaissance," Beyonce has scored the number one spot on the top US songs chart for the first time in well over a decade.

07:45