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Ousted Thai leader hit with 35b baht fine fires back at junta

Monday, September 26, 2016 - 10:58
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Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for fairness and said Thailand's military junta should treat her the same way the generals treat their allies accused of wrongdoing, after a state-appointed committee recommended she pay a 35 billion baht (S$1.36 billion) fine.

[BANGKOK] Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for fairness and said Thailand's military junta should treat her the same way the generals treat their allies accused of wrongdoing, after a state-appointed committee recommended she pay a 35 billion baht (S$1.36 billion) fine.

Ms Yingluck, whose government was ousted in a military coup in 2014, has been accused of negligence in overseeing her government's signature policy of purchasing rice from farmers at above-market rates.

The proposed penalty amounts to about 20 per cent of the 178 billion baht that the programs cost the country in 2012 and 2013, Manas Jamveha, director general of the Comptroller General's Department, told reporters Saturday.

"The prime minister has insisted that every action related to my cases is necessary in terms of law enforcement, not bullying," Ms Yingluck wrote Sunday on her Facebook page.

She then made reference to coup leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan- Ocha's brother, a fellow member of the junta at the centre of a controversy over family members winning government contracts or being given positions in the military.

"I urge the prime minister to think and uphold the principle that I deserve the same justice as your brother or anyone you call 'your side,'" Ms Yingluck wrote.

Mr Prayuth has denied any bias against Ms Yingluck and said the government has to proceed with the case in accordance to the law and before the statute of limitations expires.

"Everyone is treated equally," Mr Prayuth told reporters on Sunday.

"I didn't rush the process. The process is stated in the law."

A report will be submitted to the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Finance, which are both responsible for claiming damages from Ms Yingluck, before the case expires next February, Mr Manas said.

The office of National Anti-Corruption Commission, or another related agency, will decide who is responsible for the remaining damages, he said.

Ms Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party has asked the junta to reconsider procedures that allow the government to sue for compensation on losses from the rice-purchase program and to revoke the use of special powers under the constitution, according to a statement to the council dated Sept 25.

The case has been filed to the Supreme Court and "it is inappropriate for leaders to lead the society into making conclusions before the court has announced its ruling," the party said in the statement.

Ms Yingluck's party won elections in 2011 in part by appealing to millions of rice farmers with a plan to buy crops at inflated prices. She said the program would help reduce inequality, while her opponents say it encouraged corruption.

After Ms Yingluck's government was ousted in a May 2014 coup, she was impeached and banned from politics for five years by the junta's legislature for alleged graft in the rice-purchasing program.

She is the sister of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives abroad to avoid a jail term for a corruption conviction. The Shinawatras accuse their opponents of political persecution.

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