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Friday 25 August 2017, 11:41AM
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Friday 25 August 2017, 08:58AM
Double D-day for Boonsong, Yingluck   Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra receives flowers from her supporters on her arrival at the Supreme Court to make final statement of the rice-pledging case on Aug 1, 2017. (AP photo)   BANGKOK: All eyes are on the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions as it hands down its ruling today on two major rice-pledging cases, in which former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra are defendants.   Although they are both due to hear their rulings on the same day, their cases are actually different. Mr Boonsong is alleged to have violated the 1999 Act on price offering with state agencies, known as the anti-price collusion law, by collaborating with others in assisting a company that did not represent the Chinese government to secure a government-to-government rice buying contract with the Yingluck government. The so-called G2G form of rice trading contracts exempted the company from competition with other firms. As a result, the rice was sold at a considerably lower price, which allegedly incurred both the Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) and the nation substantial losses. Mr Boonsong denied any wrongdoing and insisted that since the DFT represented the Thai government and the company it traded with is a state enterprise in which shares are held by the Chinese government, both sides are considered government agencies and that their rice trading deal was a genuine G2G contract. Ms Yingluck, meanwhile, is accused of dereliction of duty for holding the position of prime minister but doing nothing to stop the rice scheme which was running up losses of more than B500 billion. Her alleged offence violates both Section 157 of the Criminal Code and the 1999 constitution's law on corruption prevention and suppression, which may land her a jail term of between one year and 10 years, a fine of between B10,000 and B20,000 or both, if found guilty. The rice-pledging scandal began when Ms Yingluck promised during her election campaign in 2011 to introduce the rice-pledging scheme that could guarantee a minimum rice buying price of B15,000 per ton. Her Pheu Thai Party won the election and she was voted in as prime minister by parliament. On Aug 23-24 the same year, she announced during a policy statement in parliament that her government’s plan was to implement the rice-pledging programme. She cited the need to improve and stabilise the prices of farm products to keep up with the high costs of production. The scheme was later met with a warning from the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) which pointed to problems, including the substantial state budget which must be set aside to keep the scheme afloat and the financial risks involved. The OAG had sent four letters to warn the Yingluck administration about the rice scheme due to questions of transparency and recommended it be terminated to stem further losses. The first letter detailed the risks detected in an inspection by a particular state agency. The second letter pertained to the problems with the issuing of receipts for warehouses storing the rice. The third letter informed the government about a potential lack of transparency in the scheme while the fourth letter urged the government to either revise or terminate the policy altogether. The Yingluck government, however, insisted the rice-pledging scheme was its flagship policy aimed at helping improve the situation for rice farmers who “are the backbone producers of the country”.The government refused to end the programme. That led to legal action being pursued against Ms Yingluck. On Jul 17, 2014 the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) voted unanimously to endorse its findings that found Ms Yingluck had allegedly committed dereliction of duty for looking the other way to irregularities in the rice scheme. Finding she had failed to put a brake on the rice scheme, which led to alleged corruption and damage to the country, the NACC forwarded its summary of investigation against Ms Yingluck to the Office of the Attorney-General, along with the recommendation that she be indicted in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. The prosecutor made its indictment decision on Feb 19, 2015. All 15 prosecution witnesses had testified in 10 hearings between December 2015 and June 2016, while 30 defence witnesses spoke in 15 hearings between August 2016 and July this year. In the first hearing, Ms Yingluck denied all charges and appointed five lawyers to fight the case. She was released on bail with a surety of 30 million baht. On Aug 1, Ms Yingluck delivered her closing statement in court, insisting she did not ignore any problems in the rice scheme or consent to any corruption. The prosecutor, meanwhile, submitted to the court a 211-page closing statement in the G2G case against Mr Boonsong and 27 other defendants as well as a 165-page closing statement in the case against Ms Yingluck. In total, it has been three years, one month and nine days since the NACC found grounds in the offence against Ms Yingluck and the moment of truth is upon her today.   Read original story here.
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Thursday 24 August 2017, 08:29AM
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Tuesday 22 August 2017, 08:41AM
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