Yingluck a step closer to home?

Yingluck a step closer to home?

Top court acquits her in roadshow case

Yingluck: Might return this year
Yingluck: Might return this year

The latest acquittal of fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in another lawsuit has brought her one step closer to returning home, according to a political analyst.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Case Division for Holders of Political Positions on Monday acquitted Yingluck and five others of malfeasance and collusion in the awarding of a 240-million-baht campaign to promote her government's 2-trillion-baht infrastructure projects.

Thanaporn Sriyakul, director of the Political and Public Policy Analysis Institute, said that regulations regarding parole and the detention of inmates outside prison issued by the Department of Corrections will benefit Yingluck.

"I believe that this will be the main factor that Yingluck will consider and decide whether it is the right time to return to Thailand.

"Yingluck is expected to follow the same course of action as Thaksin. But first, she must show her willingness to return and face punishment before proceeding to request a royal pardon," Mr Thanaporn said, referring to the rice-pledging case.

"Afterwards, it depends on the Justice Ministry and the Department of Corrections. This may be the right time for her return as the government is stable... I believe she will return home this year," he said.

The court on Monday voted unanimously, 9-0, for acquittal. It ruled that it did not see any intention to favour any party in the implementation of the PR project. The court also revoked the previously issued warrant for Yingluck's arrest in this case.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission earlier accused Yingluck, former PM's Office minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, Yingluck's then-secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva, Matichon Plc, Siam Sport Syndicate Plc, and Siam Sport director Ravi Lohtong.

They were indicted in connection with the allocation of 240 million baht to fund the "Roadshow to Thailand's Future Thailand 2020" campaign to promote transport infrastructure development projects in 2013.

According to the lawsuit, from late August 2013 to March 2014, the first three defendants -- Yingluck, Mr Niwatthamrong and Mr Suranand -- allegedly abused their authority by omitting to call public tenders for the work, to favour the companies who won the contracts, named as the fourth and the fifth defendants.

Without a bidding contest, the first three defendants contracted the fourth to implement the government campaign in 12 provinces to promote infrastructure projects that Yingluck's government planned to borrow 2 trillion baht to fund.

When the Constitutional Court ruled that the proposed legislation to allow the government to borrow the sum was unconstitutional, the roadshow was cancelled. The 240 million baht spent on the campaign was wasteful, according to the NACC.

In an official statement released later on Monday, the Supreme Court said government organisations and the cabinet at the time had approved the Yingluck government's transport infrastructure projects, and the Budget Bureau agreed that she, as the then-prime minister, could allocate a contingency fund for the PR project.

The project was implemented when Yingluck could not have known how the Constitutional Court would rule on the planned 2-trillion-baht borrowing, the Supreme Court said. The court also found no evidence that Yingluck, Mr Niwatthamrong or Mr Suranand favoured the fourth and the fifth defendants as the contractors of the PR project.

A previous investigation confirmed that budget allocation for the project complied with the procurement regulations of the PM's Office, the court said.

As Yingluck, Mr Niwatthamrong and Mr Suranand were found innocent, the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants did not appear to support any wrongdoing in the case, the court said.

In December 2023, the Supreme Court acquitted Yingluck in her 2011 transfer of a National Security Council secretary-general.

Yingluck, 57, has been a fugitive since August 2017, when she failed to appear in court for the reading of its ruling on a charge of dereliction of duty in a rice-pledging programme that ran up at least 500 billion baht in losses.

She was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison. A warrant for her arrest in the rice-pledging case remains active.

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