Former Thai-PM Yingluck warned to attend first day of trial

Former Thai-PM Yingluck warned to attend first day of trial
Ousted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

A senior public prosecutor yesterday warned former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra against failing to show up on the first day of her trial today in the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders.

Surasak Treeratanatrakul, director general of the Office of the Attorney General's Bureau of Investigation, said that the OAG's working group investigating the case against Yingluck would all be present at the court today.

The case stems from the Yingluck government's controversial rice-pledging scheme. The former PM is accused of failing to prevent corruption in the government project, which resulted in losses of more than Bt500 billion to the state. If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in jail.

Yingluck is charged with dereliction of duty and abuse of authority, as well as violating the Criminal Code and the Anti-Corruption Act.

Surasak is deputy leader of the working group. He said yesterday it was reported in the media that Yingluck would attend the first court hearing for the case, in which she is accused of negligence in her oversight of the rice scheme.

However, the senior prosecutor warned that if the defendant fails to show up at the court, without proper explanation by her lawyers or authorised representatives, the court might issue an arrest warrant for her. He noted that Yingluck has already been notified in writing, with a court notice being posted at her house, about the trial's schedule.

"To miss a court appointment for trial, you need to have a necessity, such as getting seriously ill," the prosecutor said.

He said that the prosecution would have more than 10 witnesses in the case.

Surasak would not answer the question as to whether the prosecutors would oppose a request for bail by Yingluck. He said it would depend on the court whether to grant bail.

Thanarerk Nitisenee, president of the court's Criminal Division for Political Officer-holders, said that at the start of the trial today, the court would ask the defendant if she wants to confess - or dismiss the allegations against her.

He said the defendant had not applied for temporary release, adding it was likely that she would do so today.

The judge said Yingluck could seek postponement of her trial but it would eventually depend on the court - and if her reason was convincing enough.

Yingluck's legal team met yesterday to prepare necessary documents to be used during the first hearing.

A source familiar with the team said that Yingluck would definitely appear before the court this morning. However, she would not give any media interviews due to concern that could be considered an infringement of the court's authority.

Democrat Party politician Warong Dechgitvigrom said he believed Yingluck would show up at the court trial today in order to avoid legal consequences if she fails to do so. He urged Yingluck to respect a court ruling in this case even though she may not benefit from it.

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