Yingluck's lawyers present defence strategy

Yingluck's lawyers present defence strategy
File photo of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra

FORMER prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will defend herself in the case over the rice-pledging scheme by focusing on the point that it was a "public policy" and her main "election campaign promise" to voters that she had to honour, her lawyers said when revealing their defence strategy.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders is set to start hearing the case from May 19. She is being tried over her failure to stop corruption and massive losses in the rice subsidy scheme.

The former PM's legal battle would focus on the fact that the scheme was a public policy, which she had declared before Parliament and that constitutionally, governments have to implement policies that they promise to voters. The ruling Pheu Thai Party had made the rice-pledging scheme one of its main policies, hence the case cannot be taken to court, the lawyers said.

They also pointed out that since the Election Commission had approved this policy, Yingluck's government could legitimately implement it. Otherwise, how will future governments implement policies and how will political parties work for the people, they asked.

The three key attacks against the Yingluck government are that the rice-pledging scheme created debts for the next 30 years; the government was not able to stem losses despite warnings and recommendations from many parties; and that 16 farmers committed suicide over delay in payment.

Yingluck's team of lawyers will defend the allegation of failure to stop the scheme despite heavy losses by stating that though the subsidy led to losses, the difference in the pledged rice and sale price went to farmers, thereby improving their quality of life.

The lawyers say this scheme was fair to the farmers because they had been working hard before the country became industrialised and it was time they got paid for their work. To Pheu Thai, the scheme did not incur losses but could be considered an investment to improve human resources.

They also said that the losses incurred from the degradation of rice in stockpiles could not be blamed on the government, but rested with the contract partners who must abide by their contract to hand over the rice at the volume and quality pledged.

As for the allegation that the scheme was rampant with corruption at every step, former deputy finance minister Tanusak Lekuthai had pointed that the registration procedure of farmers under the rice-subsidy scheme was no different from the scheme offered by the Democrats.

They also said that the Yingluck government had paid attention to recommendations from all parties on how to prevent corruption in the scheme and had instructed concerned officials to prosecute those accused of corruption. These cases were underway before the government was brought down by the military coup.

The defence team will also present proof against allegations that 16 farmers killed themselves due to a delay in payment of the rice pledged with the government and prove the delay had been caused by protests staged by the People's Democratic Reform Commit-tee.

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