Former Thai PM declares innocence in rice subsidy scheme

Former Thai PM declares innocence in rice subsidy scheme

Former Thai PM declares innocence in rice subsidy scheme

Former Thailand prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra denied she is corrupt before a court appearance where she will defend her management of a rice subsidy the military government says she mishandled.

The case centres on a "pledging scheme" under which her government bought rice from farmers for about 50 per cent more than the market price. "I beg for the (Supreme) Court to proceed on my case with respect to the facts, laws and truthful witnesses", Yingluck said. The scheme appealed to agricultural voters, who make up almost 40 percent of the labour force and are the backbone of Ms Yingluck's party.

The scheme poured billions of dollars into her rural voter base but also allegedly caused massive graft as brokers sold sub-par rice or declared inflated inventories to scoop up the subsidy.

She faces a criminal charge of negligence over a flagship policy of her premiership paying farmers almost twice the market rate for their crops, pouring billions of dollars on her rural voter base.

"The rice scheme was a useful program that benefited farmers".

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Yingluck was greeted by a huge crowd of supporters when she arrived at the courthouse to deliver her closing statement.

She has also been banned from political office for five years after the national assembly appointed by the military government impeached her.

After being ousted in 2006, Thaksin fled Thailand to avoid a 2008 jail term for corruption.

Last week, the government said it had frozen assets belonging to Ms Yingluck, including bank accounts and dozens of properties in relation to a separate, administrative order by the state to claim back money lost from the rice scheme. He has lived overseas since, but retains a strong influence over Thai politics.

The court will issue a verdict on Aug.25, a ruling that could see Thailand's first female prime minister jailed for up to 10 years.

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