Yingluck held responsible for B287bn in rice scheme damage

Yingluck held responsible for B287bn in rice scheme damage

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at the Supreme Court in Laksi district of Bangkok on Friday to hear testimony in her trial for alleged dereliction of duty in her government's rice-pledging scheme. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at the Supreme Court in Laksi district of Bangkok on Friday to hear testimony in her trial for alleged dereliction of duty in her government's rice-pledging scheme. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

A government committee has concluded that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra must pay 286.64 billion baht in compensation for her loss-ridden rice-pledging programme.

Jirachai Moonthongroy, deputy permanent secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, supplied the figure when he testified on Friday in Ms Yingluck's trial before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders.

Ms Yingluck is accused of dereliction of duty for failing to stop her government's loss-ridden rice scheme despite being warned of the potential damage, estimated in the end to have exceeded 500 billion baht.

In addition to filing criminal charges, the military government wants those responsible to pay compensation to the state and it set up a committee in April last year to arrive at a figure. Mr Jirachai, who headed the committee, testified that it had not been ordered to speed up its investigation and no parties had set a direction for its findings beforehand.

He also said the examination by his committee focused on accounting, with input from experienced rice surveyors, and that no rice-surveying firms had objected to its work.

Because additional documents related to rice examination were submitted, Ms Yingluck's lawyers asked the court to postpone the questioning of Mr Jirachai until they could review the new material. He will return to the stand on June 24.

Ms Yingluck was present at the court on Chaeng Watthana Road in Bangkok and left immediately after the hearing.

Her government was in power from August 2011 to May 2014. Under the rice-pledging programme, a key plank in the Pheu Thai Party election platform, the government bought all rice from farmers at prices 40-50% above prevailing market rates.

The aim of the programme, devised by Ms Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra, was to control supply and push up export prices. However, the world market was already experiencing an oversupply at the time and the scheme backfired badly on Thailand. As well, authorities allege there was widespread corruption in the reporting of rice transactions.

The state consequently built up huge stockpiles that led to storage problems and rice deterioration. Sales are still taking place but at substantial losses.

The Yingluck administration is also accused of arranging fake government-to-government rice sales that resulted in further damage. The Finance Ministry estimated overall losses from the rice scheme at 518 billion baht.

The court on Friday also heard testimony from Supat Eauchai, executive vice-president of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). He said the Yingluck government had no clear plan as to when the rice stocks would be sold.

Prosecutors have two more witnesses due to testify on May 18. Testimony by defence witnesses is scheduled to start on July 8 and conclude on Feb 3 next year.


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