Yingluck wants more witnesses in rice probe

Yingluck wants more witnesses in rice probe

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has appealed for more time to question additional witnesses in a hearing into damages arising from the rice pledging scheme. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has appealed for more time to question additional witnesses in a hearing into damages arising from the rice pledging scheme. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has asked a Finance Ministry fact-finding committee for more time to question an extra 18 witnesses on her side before it proceeds to demand financial compensation for losses in the rice pledging scandal.

A source close to Ms Yingluck revealed on Wednesday that she had written to Jirachai Moontongroy, who heads the probe committee, to ask for permission for 18 more individuals to testify before the panel beyond the deadline of Dec 30.

Among them are Chaikasem Nitisiri, the former justice minister; Surachai Srisarakham, a former permanent secretary for information and communications technology; Surasak Riangkrul, a former director-general of the Foreign Trade Department; and former Phitsanulok governor Chairot Meedaeng.

The former premier also wrote to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong, the source said. 

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the ministry panel wondered why the former premier had submitted her petition only nine days before the deadline for witness testimony which ended Wednesday. He said the committee would have a final say on whether it would extend the deadline and accept Ms Yingluck’s request. 

Mr Jirachai said early this month the panel had several times extended the deadline for Ms Yingluck to defend herself and the time given to her should be sufficient. 

The panel would spend all of next month concluding the findings before submitting them to Gen Prayut, he said. 

Ms Yingluck has been charged with dereliction of duty causing damage, under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, and failure to perform her duty as a state official, under the Anti-Corruption Act 1999, to stop corruption in the scheme.

The scheme has had reported losses of more than 500 billion baht to the state.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions has set Jan 15 for the first examination of prosecution witnesses in Ms Yingluck’s trial for negligence under the scheme.

Ms Yingluck has applied three times to travel overseas while waiting for the trial to begin, but each has been rejected.

Her first request was made in February to go to Hong Kong, supposedly to see her brother Thaksin Shinawatra now in self-imposed exile. The National Council for Peace and Order rejected it.

She made another request this month to visit Europe, citing an invitation from two members of the European Parliament to talk about the political situation in Thailand. Her latest request was for her to accompany her son on a study trip to Japan this month.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions rejected the last two requests.

It granted her bail of 30 million baht in May and ordered her not to leave the country without court permission. The order was placed when she answered charges relating to her role in the loss-ridden rice-pledging programme.

During an impeachment process against Ms Yingluck in January, anti-corruption commissioner Vicha Mahakhun told the National Legislative Assembly that the rice scheme had led to policy-based graft and was merely a tactic by Pheu Thai to win an election.

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