Thailand ex-PM facing criminal charges News
Thailand ex-PM facing criminal charges

[JURIST] Thailand’s attorney general filed criminal charges [press release, in Thai] on Thursday against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] over the country’s controversial rice subsidy program. Yingluck, Thailand’s first female prime minister, could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if found guilty of negligence. Under the rice subsidy program, the Yingluck-led government bought rice from Thai farmers above the market rate, which cost the state billions [BBC report] of dollars. Critics claimed [Reuters report] the program was a scheme to buy votes and funnel money to political supporters, but Yingluck denies any wrongdoing. Yingluck was removed from office in May shortly before the military seized control [JURIST reports] of the government. The Thai legislature voted to impeach [JURIST report] Yingluck last month, which bans her from holding political office for five years. The Thailand supreme court will decide by March 19 whether to pursue the case.

Thailand’s political system has been unstable since the 2006 military coup [BBC report] by the Royal Thai Army against then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile], brother of Yingluck. After the military overthrew the government last May, the junta has been accused of violating human rights in its attempts to maintain order. Martial law was instituted on May 20, two days before the coup that ousted the former Thai government and installed General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile] as the country’s new prime minister. Since then, political demonstrations have been banned, and hundreds have been arrested for protesting the junta. A group of Thai human rights activists denounced the country’s state of martial law last month, accusing the ruling military junta of imposing a judicial “twilight zone” [JURIST report]. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] in August that the junta is limiting free expression by prosecuting lese-majeste cases for defamation of the royal family. Independent UN human rights experts also called on [JURIST report] the new government to address its alleged human rights violations in June.