The government plans to issue an administrative order to claim the assets of ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra to compensate the state for losses incurred from her administration's rice-pledging scheme -- a move which will bypass court procedures.
It claims the action is to prevent the case from expiring based on the two-year statute of limitations, which will expire in February 2017.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Monday that the planned administrative order is in compliance with the 1996 Act on Liability for Wrongful Acts of Officials.
Administrative courts are allowed to demand compensation from officials found guilty of committing gross negligence or deliberate actions that result in damage to the state, according to Section 10 of the law, he said.
The deputy prime minister said the administrative order is based on the findings by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) that pointed to gross negligence in the rice scheme, resulting in damages to the state.
"If the defendants think the order is unfair, they can appeal to the Administrative Court to have it revoked," he added.
Ms Yingluck quickly criticised the move on her Facebook page, saying that the government is trying to act like a court itself, adding the order is only intended to avoid a hefty court fee if the case is brought to a civil trial.
The full English-language text of the letter is at her Facebook account.
She also requested the government hold off on seizing her assets -- and filing the civil court case -- until the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders gives its ruling on a related criminal case against her.
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Mr Wissanu dismissed the criticism, saying the law has been on the books for almost 20 years and more than 300 cases had been filed under it.
"Ms Yingluck will receive justice under the law," he said, adding that if the government lets the civil case expire in February 2017, it could also face prosecution for negligence.
Yingluck: ‘Mistreated’ by Prayut regime
"We have no choice. If we took the case to the civil court as originally planned, we would have to compromise by charging her with a lesser offence. Since the NACC accused her of severe dereliction of duty, it has to be this way," he said.
Ms Yingluck will still have the right to petition the Administrative Court to revoke the government's administrative order.
The government has set up two panels to determine if Ms Yingluck and 21 other people are financially liable for the losses incurred by the rice scheme.
The NACC accuses Ms Yingluck of dereliction of duty when she was prime minister by failing to stop the losses and rampant corruption in the scheme she was supposed to be overseeing.
Ms Yingluck asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in an open letter -- also posted on Facebook -- to halt the seizure of her assets and let the court process take its course.
Her lawyer will submit the letter to Gen Prayut through the Government House's complaints centre tomorrow morning, she said in the letter.
"I feel worried because one of your legal advisers publicly stated that claiming damages in the civil case would cost the government enormous court fees although taking the case to court is the best way to maintain justice.
"Your legal adviser has tried to misinterpret the law and legal mechanisms to claim damages by advising you to issue an administrative order... to seize my assets just to avoid the court fees," she said in the statement.
Ms Yingluck also asked Gen Prayut to reconsider the administrative order and stop bypassing court procedures by using the order to seek civil compensation.
"By exercising the administrative order, you do not even have to consult the cabinet. It means that you are using your power as if you were a judge while the criminal case trial is still under the legal process in court," the letter stated.
She also asked that until after the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the criminal case, the government should delay filing the civil claim through the court, or it would be unfair to her if she is found guilty.
"I sincerely hope that you assigned the fact-finding committee to investigate the case under the due process of law to provide justice and adhere strictly to the [law] without unnecessarily speeding up the case to reach a verdict.
"I hope that you will ensure fair and just opportunities for the relevant persons to present evidence," she added.
Since Gen Prayut became prime minister, Ms Yingluck said she has been "mistreated" over the rice policy which had been endorsed by parliament.
"The National Legislative Assembly impeached me even though I no longer held the [prime minister] position because I had already resigned and was also disqualified from the position by the Constitutional Court," she wrote.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon insisted the move to invoke the order to seize assets from Ms Yingluck followed the law.