[JURIST] Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges relating to negligence over the government’s rice subsidy scheme. Yingluck maintains that she is innocent, and has stated [remarks] to reporters, “I hope the court will grant me justice, and that everything will go according to due process under the law.” Under the controversial 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. Yingluck was removed from office last May shortly before the military seized control [JURIST reports] of the government. The Thai legislature voted to impeach [JURIST report] Yingluck in January, which bans her from holding political office for five years.
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 of 2014, 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 in February, accusing the ruling military junta of imposing a judicial “twilight zone” [JURIST report]. The current prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced in April that the country’s military government would lift the martial law [JURIST report] and replace it with a new security order. Also in April, Thailand completed an initial draft [JURIST report] of a new constitution, which, if ratified, would be the country’s twentieth since 1932. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch announced that Thailand must authorize a UN investigation [JURIST report] into human trafficking after the discovery of more than 20 bodies of ethnic Rohingya Muslims near an abandoned trafficking camp.