Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra plans to make a last-ditch effort to appeal against a Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions ruling exercising her rights under the 2017 Constitution, if the ruling is not in her favour.
The court announced yesterday it intends to rule on Aug 25 whether Ms Yingluck was guilty of neglecting her duty in the handling of her administration's rice-pledging programme.
Ms Yingluck attended her final witness hearing at the court yesterday as almost 1,000 supporters gathered in front of the court to give her moral support.
If found guilty, Ms Yingluck could face a jail term of up to 10 years.
Ms Yingluck plans to give her closing statement verbally on Aug 1. Both sides are required to submit written closing statements by Aug 15.
Chusak Sirinil, head of Ms Yingluck's legal team, said if the Aug 25 ruling goes against her, the legal team is prepared to appeal the case with the assembly of the Supreme Court judges as permitted under the new charter.
Unlike under the previous charter enforced when Ms Yingluck was charged by the attorney-general on Feb 19, 2015, the 2017 charter allows any suspect convicted by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions to be able to appeal without the need for any new evidence.
Suebphong Sriphongkul, spokesman for the Courts of Justice, told the Bangkok Post that the new right to appeal against a ruling by the Supreme Court is already in effect, despite the organic law on the criminal procedure for holders of political positions not yet being enforced.
After such an appeal is submitted, the court will then decide whether to accept it for consideration, he said.
If the court agrees to hear the appeal, a new committee of judges -- without any members from the previous committee -- will be selected to handle it, said the spokesman.
The time frame for the new appeal process has yet to be specified but it will not be long, he said.
"The new judge committee won't start hearing the witness testimonies all over again but it will examine the old evidence and witness testimonies along with the arguments stated in the appeal.
It cannot be estimated exactly how long this process will take as this will be the first time that this right allowed under the new constitution will be used," Mr Suebphong said.
If Ms Yingluck appeals the case, the plaintiff will only be allowed to defend themselves against the specific arguments cited in the appeal, he said
The plaintiff will not have the right to argue against the defendant's appeal request, he added.
The court yesterday also dismissed Ms Yingluck's request to seek a Constitutional Court review of whether the court's procedures in her case were in violation of the 2017 Constitution.
"The law on the procedures of the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions stipulates that it may seek additional facts and evidence as appropriate. The 2017 charter allows the court to do so 'for the benefit of justice'. We decided the clause in the court's procedures law is not in breach of the constitution," the court statement said.
The court said it had allowed both sides to produce additional witnesses and evidence. The prosecutor submitted 21 requests to do so and 15 witnesses were heard over 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 produce witnesses for the benefit of justice, the principle of the inquisitorial system.
"The defendant's petition and its rationale 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," the court said.
The trial has been going on for a little over two years, with 56 witnesses heard in total.
Prosecution witnesses gave testimony at hearings from January to June 2016. The case for the defence began in August 2016 and ended yesterday.
In the court hearings, a key prosecution witness was NACC commissioner Supa Piyajitti who testified that when she was a finance deputy permanent secretary, she submitted a letter to Ms Yingluck's government warning about the huge damages.
Ms Supa also testified that the scheme benefited mostly rich farmers, millers and traders and only a fraction of it helped ordinary farmers.
Another 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.
On the defence side, former deputy prime minister and finance minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the rice programme aimed to help ease disparities.
He insisted it was cost-effective and that the prime minister had supervised it to ensure transparency.