A working group comprised of public prosecutors and members of the anti-graft agency has agreed that former premier Yingluck Shinawatra was involved in the alleged corruption in connection with her government's rice-pledging scheme and that she will face legal action.
Wicha Mahakhun, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), told the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday that both sides had decided to take the case to Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders.
This is the latest from the NACC, which is working alongside the Office of the Attorney-General to file a criminal case against Yingluck. If she is found guilty, she may face a jail term and heavy fines.
Wicha also said yesterday that despite this criminal case, Yingluck should also face impeachment proceedings so she can be barred from politics for five years.
He appeared to use the decision to take legal action against Yingluck as a reason to persuade NLA members to go ahead with impeachment proceedings against her. He was responding on behalf of the NACC to queries from NLA members on whether they should go ahead with the impeachment process.
Wicha also said he did not think Yingluck's impeachment would pose obstacles to the ongoing national reconciliation effort, arguing that reconciliation moves involved investigating, clarifying and publicising the truth rather than "forgiving" wrongdoers.
He was responding to a question posed by the NLA enquiry committee, which wanted to know if going ahead with Yingluck's impeachment case would damage moves to foster national reconciliation.
Wicha said reconciliation and the impeachment process were "entirely different matters", adding that for true reconciliation, people should be able to see "right from wrong" and once facts are clarified to the public, it can decide for itself if holders of public office possess the qualities to lead the country.
"Examples need to be set that those who commit wrong will be punished, so no future leaders dare repeat these actions. This will create sustainable reconciliation," the NACC member said.
Publicising the truth was part and parcel of reconciliation, Wicha said, adding that the impeachment process would become a significant investigative tool in uncovering the truth.
As for the Constitutional Court's previous decision to remove Yingluck from office, Wicha said it was done for the unconstitutional removal of Thawil Pliensri from his position as chief of the National Security Council. He pointed out that this case did not reveal the former PM's misconduct and role in what proved to be a disastrous scheme.
"The impeachment proceedings on Yingluck's role in the rice-pledging scheme is an entirely different process and has nothing to do with the court's ruling, hence [the impeachment] can go ahead. The NACC tried to impeach her because she committed wrongs and is looking to ban her from politics for five years," he said.
Yingluck's representatives at the NLA meeting yesterday requested that she be allowed to answer all the 35 queries posed by NLA members on the day she presents her closing statement.
The NLA will convene again next Thursday to hear closing statements from the NACC as well as answers to its queries from Yingluck, before it meets again the following day to vote on whether it should go ahead with impeachment proceedings against her, NLA deputy president Peerasak Porjit said yesterday.
Meanwhile, NACC president Panthep Klanarongran said yesterday that the joint public prosecutors and NACC working group would decide by the end of this month on how it will pursue criminal proceedings against Yingluck.
He said the NACC working team, led by secretary-general Sansern Poljieak, was collecting additional information from relevant agencies and questioning more witnesses as requested by the Attorney-General's Office. Once this work is completed, he said, the team would meet with attorney-general representatives before taking the case to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders.
The NACC chief said he expected both sides to meet no more than twice before a decision is made within this month.
As for the case against former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, also in connection with the rice-pledging scheme, the NACC will decide on Tuesday on whether he should be indicted, Panthep said.
Boonsong is accused of irregularities in the sale of pledged rice |in government-to-government deals.
In a related development, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said in his weekly address last night that members of the public can decide for themselves when a politician is accused of committing wrongdoings.
"The society should be able to tell right from wrong. We should not allow anyone to stir us up and cause social divisions again," he said.