Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday urged current PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha not to issue an administrative order to make her pay compensation for state losses over the rice-pledging scheme.
She said such an order was against the rule of law since the court had yet to rule on a criminal case against her.
She said Prayut's legal specialists had "adopted a legal technique" to seek compensation by having the PM issue an administrative order without seeking Cabinet approval to make individuals pay compensation, like an order to seize assets. This was to avoid hefty court fees when filing a civil suit, she alleged.
She called on Prayut to opt for court procedures to seek civil liability, since the court was regarded as a justice channel.
"For issuing this administrative order, it is like you exercise your power like a court issues a verdict, as you incriminate individuals who must pay compensation over the rice pledging scheme - even though the Supreme Court has yet to rule on a criminal trial. This is a grave violation against the rule of law," she said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam defended the civil action being taken against Yingluck, saying the administrative order would be issued in accordance with the Liability for Wrongful Act of Officials Act 1996.
"The government resorted to normal legal procedures that have been used for over 20 years with more than 300 orders issued. These orders were issued even during the Yingluck government regime," he said.
He said the government must take recourse to this Act because the National Anti-Corruption Commission found that Yingluck committed grave negligence that caused huge damage to the state. He said that Article 10 of the Act stipulated that an administrative order must be issued before the two-year statute of limitations expires. The individuals in question could file a petition to the Administrative Court to revoke the administrative order, he noted.
Yingluck said her lawyer would today submit a petition at Government House's complaint centre, calling on Prayut to ensure justice for her over the government's civil action case.
In her petition, Yingluck said Prayut issued a Finance Ministry directive dated April 3 to appoint a fact-finding panel over the civil liability claim. "If it is wrong, we have a mechanism to demand compensation over a civil liability. I will adopt the same standard to every group to ensure justice," Yingluck quoted Prayut as saying.
She claimed that Prayut had no legitimacy to issue the order because as chairman of the National Rice Policy Committee, he was regarded as a "stakeholder" and was not neutral because he may have different rice policies from her government.
Yingluck said she hoped that Prayut stuck with his words to "ensure justice" by not rushing legal procedures but providing opportunities for concerned parties to present evidence.
She said Prayut's legal specialists had said there was plenty of time left before the statute of limitations of the civil case over the rice-pledging scheme expired - so the government should not rush civil proceedings against her.
She said she submitted several documents to Prayut and concerned committees but they were not considered and no reason was given.
Yingluck posted the letter in her personal Facebook page both in Thai and English.
Wissanu said the government had to take a civil action before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders issues a verdict because the statute of limitations in a civil case would expire in February 2017. "We have to issue an order fast and we cannot wait otherwise we will face legal action for not taking a civil action. Once the civil case is brought to the Administrative Court to revoke the order, the statute of limitations will be 10 or 20 years,'' he explained.
Asked what if the Supreme Court acquitted the defendants in a criminal trial, Wissanu said that did not matter and he did not believe the court would make a speedy ruling.
On Yingluck's claim that Prayut had no legitimacy to issue an order against her because he was a "stakeholder", Wissanu said he had no clue how Prayut would benefit or lose from issuing the order. But he insisted that Yingluck had the right to appeal the order with the Administrative Court.
Wissanu added that if Yingluck filed a petition with the court, she would have to prove whether she committed grave negligence. "That means she is fighting charges levelled by the NACC and not the government," he said.
A Finance Ministry Post-Audit Committee on the rice-pledging had estimated the loss incurred from the scheme at about Bt600 billion (S$23.7 billion).