Yingluck gets 30 more days to explain herself

Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
PHOTO: Reuters

THE committee set up to probe ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra over her government's controversial rice-pledging scheme has given her an additional 30 days to explain her actions.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday said there were some more questions the committee wanted to ask Yingluck despite the process' original deadline passing last month. He did not elaborate.

Wissanu insisted that Yingluck was negligent in allowing the scheme to inflict huge losses on the country.

The government is expected to seek up to Bt500 billion (S$19.6 billion) in compensation from Yingluck due to the damage caused to the country by the scheme.

However, according to the law a defendant can negotiate to reduce the compensation figure, Wissanu said.

Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd expressed displeasure over Yingluck and her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng's decision to write an open letter to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in which Yingluck appealed to him.

"Why do they give hints to the plaintiff the government ?" he said. "They could just let us blunder on so they are at an advantage if the court sees their point of view."

Norrawit said Yingluck had appealed to Prayut in several letters but was yet to receive replies and that was why she had written an open letter to him.

He added that the working procedure of the investigation committee was not fair to Yingluck.

The committee created its own schedule to question witnesses without caring whether a witness was available, he said, adding that when a witness was not available the committee cut them from the process.

'Action against her necessary'

Yingluck on Tuesday had her lawyer submit the open letter to Prayut in response to the PM's move to issue an administrative order to make Yingluck pay compensation - a decision Yingluck's camp believes could be an abuse of authority motivated by politics.

Wissanu said the premier did not need to sign the order and could leave the matter to the finance minister.

Sansern said the government needed to take action against Yingluck as the National Anti-Corruption Commission had submitted the case against her to the Finance Ministry in February.

He said Prayut and the finance minister had set up the investigative committee as per the Liability for Wrongful Act of Officials Act.

That was done as Article 4 of the Act stated the legislation covered civil servants, officers, employees and other kinds of government workers. Yingluck, as prime minister, was head of the National Rice Committee.

Sansern said although Article 4 stated it was not applicable to Parliament and the Cabinet, Yingluck could not be exempted as her actions were done on an individual basis, not as a Cabinet member.

The fact-finding committee had previously invited Yingluck a couple of times to explain her actions but had received terse written replies, he said, adding that this might be because the former premier tended to give rambling explanations in speech.

"She chose this [written] way of communication to buy time," he said.

Yingluck was welcome to submit more evidence regarding the case, because what had been submitted so far is unusable, he added.