Ousted Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra today said she would fight a junta order demanding she personally pay nearly $1 billion in compensation for a rice policy critics say was riddled with graft.
Yingluck, Thailand’s first female premier, was removed from office by a court days before the army seized power in a 2014 coup.
She has since been tangled in a web of legal cases that she says are politically motivated, including a criminal negligence trial over the rice policy that could see her jailed for up to 10 years.
Outside a Bangkok court today, she told reporters she received a new order signed two days ago demanding more than $1 billion in civil damages for losses incurred by the rice scheme.
“Such an order has violated my rights and is not fair,” she said as supporters swarmed her outside the courthouse.
“I affirm that I will exercise all my rights to deny this allegation and the civil charges”.
The ex-premier said she would not comment further during this sensitive time, with the kingdom still grieving the death last week of its revered monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej.
But she has previously called on the junta to file civil claims in court instead of ordering the USD 1 billion fine — a figure that dwarfs the some $17 million she declared in assets in 2015.
Under the rice scheme, Yingluck’s elected government purchased paddies from farmers at nearly twice the market rate.
The policy was popular among many farmers but pilloried by critics as a costly and corrupt populist handout.
A senior junta official, deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, said today that Yingluck is free to challenge the asset seizure order.
“She can ask for an appeal or mitigation of the order,” he said.
But analysts say the military regime is determined to block any comeback by the popular leader and her brother Thaksin, who was ousted from the premiership in a 2006 coup and remains in self-imposed exile.
The siblings have poured money in Thailand’s rural heartlands, building a support base that has helped them win every poll in the past decade.
But their governments have been repeatedly taken down by court rulings and coups backed by a Bangkok elite unnerved by the siblings’ political ascent.
Analysts say the junta is using Yingluck’s corruption case to legitimise their coup and brandish a self-styled reputation as graft-busters.