BANGKOK – Thailand’s Supreme Court on Wednesday found former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of malfeasance in a loss-ridden rice subsidy program and sentenced her in absentia to five years in jail, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
Yingluck did not show up at the court and has so far not made any public comment on the verdict.
After a trial running over two years, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions began reading the verdict at 11 am local time and continued for nearly four hours.
In an announcement released by the court, it read that even though the unmilled rice program was an act according to government policy that the cabinet had stated to the National Assembly, if the implementation of such policy was not in accordance with law, such acts could be inspected by the judicial process.
Yingluck could be sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison if found guilty of negligence over a costly rice subsidy scheme that helped to bring her to power in an election in 2011.
In the scheme, Yingluck’s government paid Thai rice farmers inflated prices for their crops, driving up global rice prices.
The subsidy scheme did not work, costing the country US$8 billion and leaving it with vast stockpiles of rice.
Yingluck denied all the charges when giving her closing oral statement on Aug 1, arguing she was not responsible for the day-to-day running of the scheme and insisted she was a victim of political persecution.
The verdict was supposed to be read on Aug 25, but Yingluck, the country’s first woman prime minister, failed to show up.
Her lawyer said she was ill with an ear problem and could not appear in court. The court then issued an arrest warrant on her and postponed the verdict.
It was reported that she had fled to Dubai where her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, lives in self-imposed exile avoiding a 2008 sentence for corruption.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday that he knows where the ousted former prime minister is but will not disclose her whereabouts until the verdict is delivered. – BERNAMA