Thailand ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra pleads not guilty as her negligence trial begins
Ousted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to dereliction of duty charges as a trial that could jail her for a decade began, in the latest move seen as a bid to keep her powerful family out of politics.
Bangkok: Ousted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to dereliction of duty charges as a trial that could jail her for a decade began, in the latest move seen as a bid to keep her powerful family out of politics.
The country's first, and only, woman premier made an appearance at the Supreme Court for the opening hearing of the dereliction of duty case regarding her government's controversial loss-making rice-pledging scheme.
During the brief hearing, 47-year-old Yingluck insisted on her innocence after hearing the charges. She pleaded not guilty to charges of dereliction of duty and abuse of authority in administering her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme.
Yingluck - whose administration was toppled in a military coup nearly a year ago - said she would submit a written defence statement to the court on 3 July.
The court granted bail on condition that she does not leave the country without written permission and fixed the next hearing for 21 July.
Earlier, on her arrival outside the court, Yingluck was warmly received by many supporters, a rare sight in Thailand where political gatherings of more than five persons remain banned by the junta.
They chanted "Yingluck, fight, fight!" as her convoy arrived.
"I am confident that I am innocent and I hope the court will give me justice and allow everything to proceed in accordance with the law," Yingluck had told reporters.
The former prime minister is not accused of personal corruption but is charged with dereliction of duty and abuse of authority in failing to stop graft and losses in the rice scheme, according to the Criminal Code and Counter Corruption Act.
The losses estimated at more than 500 billion baht (around USD 15 billion) were incurred when her government bought rice from farmers at higher than prevailing market prices but failed to resell much of it.
A guilty conviction that carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years could upset the political ambitions of her family - the powerful Shinawatra clan.
Yingluck is the younger sister of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is on a self-imposed exile.
Thailand's military-appointed parliament impeached Yingluck in January over the scheme, a move that banned her from politics for five years.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission has accused Yingluck of using the rice-pledging scheme to gain votes from farmers and win the national general election in 2011.
The flagship rice programme had helped Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party win the 2011 elections and the former premier has argued the policy was aimed at helping poor farmers.
Surasak Trirattrakul, inquiry director of the Office of the Attorney General, said the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had ordered Yingluck to appear to hear the charges and enter her plea.
The move could trigger fresh tensions in the politically divided nation that is still under martial law after the military seized power in May last year.
Yingluck's supporters have also said the proceedings are part of a wider campaign to end the influence of the Shinawatra clan.
Tuesday's move is the latest in nearly a decade of turbulent politics in Thailand where the royalist-military establishment sees the Shinawatras as a threat and criticise their populist policies.
The trial begins on a day that also marks the fifth anniversary of a fierce army crackdown against demonstrators backing the Shinawatras in which dozens of people were killed.
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Thai political history is littered with army coups that have nullified the results of national elections. The last coup, in 2014, was followed by the passage of an army-drafted Constitution that has eroded democratic institutions further. The Senate, for instance, is now entirely appointed.