Former ministers choose not to answer Thai parliament's queries

Former ministers choose not to answer Thai parliament's queries
National Legislative Assembly members attend a meeting

Former members of the ousted Pheu Thai-led government who were accused of fabricating the government-to-government (G2G) rice deals have decided not to attend a question-and-answer session with the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). The NLA is set to consider their impeachment.

The accused include former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, his then-deputy Poom Sarapol and former director of the Commerce Ministry's Foreign Trade Department Manus Soiploy,

NLA vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai quoted the accused as saying they would not attend the meeting because they believed that answering the NLA's questions would negatively affect their cases, which are due to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court's special department on political cases.

The three are scheduled to deliver their final statements to NLA members on May 7, before the NLA votes on the following day as to whether the accused should be impeached.

In response to Boonsong and Poom's accusation last week that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) had been hasty with the investigation and was politically motivated, NACC member Vicha Mahakhun said his decision to prosecute these individuals had nothing to do with politics.

He also said that impeachment was an important process, because if impeached, they will be banned from politics for five years.

He also insisted that Boonsong and Poom had falsely claimed that the two Chinese enterprises involved in the deal were representatives of the Beijing government.

He said that though they were state enterprises, they had not been authorised by the Chinese government to buy rice from Thailand as part of a G2G programme.

Also, no rice was actually exported to China under this scheme Vicha said, adding that the deal was designed to allow the Pheu Thai government's business allies to buy rice from "fake" Chinese firms at a price lower than the market price.

The rice was then redistributed in the country, thus making huge profits for the firms, as well as bringing the market price down via oversupply.

The NLA was set to ask Boonsong and Poom to provide evidence of the two Chinese state firms working as representatives of the Chinese government.

NLA members were also to ask if Boonsong and Poom were aware that the rice that was supposed to be exported to China was in fact bought and distributed locally, thus bringing damage to the country.

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