Thai junta may bill 6,000 officials for Yingluck’s failed rice scheme

15.11.2016

A LIST of 6,000 names have been presented to Thailand’s Justice Ministry as those suspected of malfeasance leading to losses worth over BHT142 billion (US$4 billion) in the Yingluck administration’s flagship rice-pledging scheme.

According to Bangkok Post, Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said at the Government House Tuesday that the list came from the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the ministries of agriculture, commerce, finance and interior.

The report revealed that of the 6,000 names in the list, 2,000 were former ministers and members of sub-committees and executive levels, while the remaining 4,000 were officials at operational levels.

Paiboon said, however, that those named in the list were not necessarily deemed immediately guilty. He said authorities will first examine the details to confirm their complicity in the scheme and how much each individual should be made to pay in compensation for the losses incurred in the failed scheme.

The list may also not be complete just yet, the minister reportedly said, noting that the Interior Ministry has yet to name the business operators deemed partially responsible for the loss.

The Thai military junta government wants some BHT178 billion (US$5 billion) in compensation for losses accumulated in the scheme for the 2012 to 2014 crops.

Yingluck Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted by the military junta in a 2014 coup, has been billed for BHT35.7 billion (US$1 billion) or 20 percent of the sum. The former prime minister, however, has voiced her intention to fight the demand.

The government meanwhile wants the other government officials allegedly involved to cough up the remaining 80 percent or BHT142 billion.

The controversial scheme that paid farmers above market rates for their rice was a key policy of Yingluck’s government, and has been credited for her ascension to the office of prime minister in the 2011 federal polls. The scheme was launched in October that year to fulfill the Pheu Thai Party’s election pledge to farmers, who formed a large segment of the party’s voting base.

The BHT35.7 billion fine issued to Yingluck was fixed by a state-appointed committee that decided in September that the quantum was fitting due to her role in the scheme that led to massive losses for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 rice crop.

After she was served the order last month, Yingluck vowed to fight what she labelled an unfair punishment.

Responding to the order against Yingluck, the leader of the Pheu Thai Party Secretary General Phumtham Wechayachai slammed the military regime for the punishment, accusing it of applying different standards on Yingluck.

Plumtham also reportedly said it was unclear whether Yingluck should be held accountable for the failed scheme, and that the civil liability law was enacted to protect state officials from liability unless they were found to have deliberately broken the law.

But Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha insisted in response that it was his government’s duty to bring the matter to the court and to let the judicial process run its course.

He also said Yingluck had the right to have her lawyer petition against the order, and that should this bid fail, she could still appeal for a lighter burden of compensation.

Yingluck was found guilty by the state committee for 20 percent of losses and not for that incurred between 2011 and 2012.

The former premier, is allowed to appeal the order within 45 days of receipt. She is also being tried for negligence and faces up to 10 years’ jail if convicted.


asiancorrespondent

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