PM ramps up Yingluck rally threat

PM ramps up Yingluck rally threat

Prayut vows to punish 'mob' at Aug 25 verdict

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ramps up his caution: Too many wellwishers at the court next Tuesday and Aug 25 will spoil the day and bring down punishment for illegal gathering. (Bangkok Post file photos)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ramps up his caution: Too many wellwishers at the court next Tuesday and Aug 25 will spoil the day and bring down punishment for illegal gathering. (Bangkok Post file photos)

Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra have again been warned against participating in public gatherings when the Supreme Court hands down a ruling on her controversial rice-pledging scheme next month, or face legal action.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued the warning Monday.

It echoed a similar caution from the premier last Thursday when he urged no unruly behaviour in the court compound the following day.

The former prime minister -- who was ousted by a Constitutional Court ruling in 2006 -- appeared in court last Friday to hear final witness statements.

Hundreds gathered that day in the court compound to lend moral support, with some female supporters openly weeping and chanting her name.

Gen Prayut said Monday that security remains the top priority for the regime and anyone who attempts to challenge the law by mobilising a crowd with malicious intent would face legal consequences.

Ms Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party retain what even opposition parties describe as an unassailable support base in the country's North and Northeast. The Shinawatra clan hail from the North.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has banned political gatherings of more than five people since it staged a coup to topple the Pheu Thai-led government three years ago. Transgressors face a maximum jail term of 1 year and a fine of up to 20,000 baht.

Gen Prayut, also the NCPO chief, was responding to reports that huge crowds would show up to extend their support to Ms Yingluck on Aug 25 when the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down its ruling. She is accused of malfeasance in handling the rice scheme, resulting in corruption.

"You can love anyone, but [you] shouldn't cause trouble for others or undermine the law. If anyone mobilises crowds they must know they are breaking the law," the premier said.

"They won't face [legal action] that day but they certainly will later," he added.

Army chief and NCPO secretary-general Chalermchai Sitthisad echoed Gen Prayut, saying the NCPO will have to "regulate" people who arrive to support Ms Yingluck next month.

"The NCPO does not prohibit people from coming to support her in good faith but any organised gatherings are against the law," he said.

Gen Chalermchai insisted the NCPO will not dispatch soldiers to block her supporters from Pheu Thai or red-shirt strongholds, as was reported in social media.

Core members of the party and red-shirt groups vowed Monday that supporters would flock to the court on Aug 25, and urged the government not to stand in their way.

Red-shirt co-leader Nattawut Saikuar said large crowds would be in attendance to lend the former politician moral support and as a sign of goodwill.

"Her supporters will be there, with full understanding about how much they can do. They don't have any intention to instigate chaos," he said.

Chaowalit Wichayasut, the party's former deputy secretary-general, said the NCPO had no cause for concern as Ms Yingluck's supporters would be well-behaved.

"It's about keeping the faith, not mobilising a crowd," he said.

NCPO spokesman Winthai Suvaree said her followers have been cooperating with the government's requests, with many expected to follow the ruling from home.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the implicit threat of a mass gathering may be an attempt to pressure the judges.

"I won't deny that Ms Yingluck and Pheu Thai are still popular but they must draw a line between political popularity and the law. No matter which way the court rules, all sides must respect its decision," he said.

In a related development, the Finance Ministry has started locating Ms Yingluck's assets and given information to the Legal Execution Department (LED) so it can begin seizing her assets based on an administrative order.

Ms Yingluck has been ordered to pay 35.7 billion baht in compensation for her alleged dereliction of duty in the rice-pledging scheme.

Finance permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse said the ministry had identified 12 bank accounts under her name and submitted details to the LED two weeks ago.

A panel chaired by Jirachai Moonthongroy found Ms Yingluck liable for 286.6 billion baht in compensation for rice scheme losses. She allegedly proceeded with the project despite being warned it could cause losses of 500 billion baht. Another panel later lowered the damages owed by Ms Yingluck to 35.7 billion baht.

The LED said the statute of limitations on the case is 10 years.

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