Yingluck may face huge personal bill for rice scheme

Yingluck may face huge personal bill for rice scheme

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the Supreme Court in late August after hearing charges of dereliction of duty regarding her loss-ridden rice-pledging scheme. (Photo by Phrakrit Juntawong)
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra leaves the Supreme Court in late August after hearing charges of dereliction of duty regarding her loss-ridden rice-pledging scheme. (Photo by Phrakrit Juntawong)

The government is likely to demand tens of billions of baht in compensation for the loss-ridden rice-pledging programme of the previous Yingluck Shinawatra government, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday.

Those facing the compensation demand would include Ms Yingluck who introduced the scheme, former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom who carried it out, and the companies involved in trading pledged rice, Mr Wissanu said.

He said the amount sought would be based on economic damage caused by the scheme up to Dec 30, 2014. The total losses to the state from the programme from 2011 through 2014 have been estimated by the Finance Ministry at 530 billion baht.

The deputy premier said he did not know exactly how much would be demanded from those responsible, only that he expected it would be "tens of billions" of baht.

The compensation demands could be filed with the Civil Court or the Criminal Court, said Mr Wissanu, the cabinet's legal expert. Alternatively, the government could directly order assets confiscated from those responsible under the Tortious Liability of Officials Act.

For the former prime minister and the former commerce minister, the government would choose the latter, but they could contest the order in the Appeal Court, Mr Wissanu said.

The amount sought could be reduced if the rice programme was seen as having good intentions to help farmers.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission said earlier that the programme was little more than a vote-winning gimmick.

But going after former Yingluck administration officials raises the question of why authorities don't target similarly costly and failed rice schemes run by previous governments. Mr Wissanu admitted that was a valid point and that new cases might emerge.

The Yingluck government purchased paddy from farmers at 15,000 baht a tonne, 40% above prevailing market prices, in the belief that putting more money into the pockets of farmers would stimulate consumption and the economy overall.

However, a lot of the money never reached the farmers but was lost to corruption and inefficiency.

Worse, the government was left with as much as 18 million tonnes of rice that will take years to sell for far less than what was paid. Millions of tonnes are now spoiled and can only be sold for animal feed and industrial use.

Ms Yingluck is also facing a Supreme Court trial for coprruption in connection with the rice scheme. The court will begin examining witnesses on Oct 29.


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