BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s military government announced Monday that it intends to sue a former prime minister for billions of dollars in losses it alleges were incurred by her administration’s rice subsidy program.
The Cabinet official in charge of the prime minister’s office, Panadda Diskul, said a specially appointed committee has determined that 286.64 billion baht ($8.2 billion) in revenues were lost under the scheme, and that former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is liable for about 200 billion baht ($5.8 billion) of the total.
Yingluck was forced from office in May 2014 when a court found her guilty of abuse of power in a personnel case. The army ousted her government shortly afterward. The military-appointed interim legislature later formally impeached her on charges of mismanaging the subsidy program, barring her from political office for five years. She is currently on trial for alleged dereliction of duty in administering the program, a criminal charge under which she could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Her supporters believe she is being persecuted by the army and by other political opponents of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup after demonstrations accused him of corruption, abuse of power and insulting the monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His ouster set off sometimes-violent battles for power between his supporters and opponents, including the military. He has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape a prison sentence on a corruption charge. His supporters say the country’s political establishment opposes him because his electoral popularity threatens their entrenched privileges.
The rice subsidy program was a flagship policy that helped Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party win the 2011 general election. Yingluck has argued it was aimed at helping poor farmers, who were paid about 50 percent above what they would have received on the world market. The government evidently hoped it could drive up the world price for rice by warehousing vast supplies, but other producers such as Vietnam took up the slack instead, bumping Thailand from its spot as the world’s leading rice exporter.
Panadda said some 13.3 million tons of rice were purchased and stored by the government, but less than 1 million tons ended up being exported.
He said the government would also seek compensation from Yingluck’s commerce minister, Boonsong Teriyapirom, and several lower-ranking officials.