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Supreme Court to try Yingluck in rice case

Posted by pakin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Former PM hopes for fair trial, which starts on May 19

THE SUPREME Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders yesterday ordered former prime minister YingluckShinawatra to stand trial on May 19 on charges of alleged negligence in failing to stop corruption and mismanagement of the rice-pledging scheme that inflicted a loss of Bt600 billion on the national coffers and the rice trade.

Supreme Court Vice President Veerapol Tangsuwan, who was selected by nine judges as presiding judge, said the case was within the court’s authority and it was filed correctly in accordance with the court procedure, therefore the court has accepted the case for hearing.

If found guilty, Yingluck could face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to Bt20,000 or both.

Surasak Trirattrakul, the deputy chief prosecutor in charge of the case, said 13 prosecution witnesses would testify, including National Anti Corruption Commission officials and concerned state agencies. Evidence such as documents and CDs would be provided to the court.

He said a copy of the writ and the court summons would be delivered to Yingluck within seven days informing her to appear for trial at 9.30am on May 19. The court notice can be posted at her residence without her presence. Her failure to appear for the first hearing could lead to the court issuing an arrest warrant. He said the court would decide on whether to temporarily release her and decide on whether she could leave the country. Prosecutors can oppose temporary release of the defendant if they suspect she may flee or tamper with witnesses. There had been no reports of witness intimidation, he added.

Asked if Yingluck can seek permission to leave the country, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters to ask the court, as the case has to conform to justice procedures.

Prayut was in a good mood yesterday, plucking a flower from a pot on the steps of Government House and putting it into his pocket while making a metaphorical statement, “Discard withering flowers, they are old, do not pay attention.”

A source close to Yingluck said her brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra had telephoned her to provide moral support in fighting the case. He said the National Council for Peace and Order wanted Yingluck to be convicted to prevent her from playing a political role for the rest of her life. Thaksin told Yingluck it would take many years to fight a civil suit and that it would be another 45 days before the first hearing.

Another lawsuit

The Prayut government is also considering proceeding with another lawsuit against Yingluck seeking Bt600 billion in damages for losses inflicted on the country by her government’s rice-pledging scheme.

Yingluck posted messages on her personal Facebook page after the court accepted the case, saying the case would have a significant impact on the country’s economic and political systems, including farmers and people nationwide. The case will set the norm for future governments in drawing up policies to help people.

She insisted that the rice-pledging scheme case was an economic policy that people trusted her to carry out by democratic means. She said she had presented the policy to the people, leading to public consensus to create a fair market mechanism that would help upgrade the quality of life of farmers, who were not able to influence the price of their produce in the market. The price mechanism was in the hands of rice buyers, she added. She said she wanted to help farmers so that they were not exploited by traders.

Yingluck said she was not given justice during investigation procedures because of political interference in the case. The National Anti-Corruption Commission had stated that there was no evidence to show she was corrupt, colluded with or allowed corruption. Prosecutors had not completed their investigation but had rushed to indict her despite the Attorney-General pointing out holes in the case.

She said she hoped she would be given a fair trial and opportunities to present evidence to show her innocence in the court. She called on critics to stop making comments that would interfere with or influence the court’s decision and affect the fairness of the trial.

Yingluck’s lawyer, Norawit Lalang, said his legal team had yet to choose the defence witnesses as they had yet to receive the writ. At the first hearing, they would prepare assets as required by the court to seek Yingluck’s temporary release.

Court clears Chavanont of libel charges

Posted by pakin On March - 17 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The Criminal Court yesterday acquitted Democrat Party spokesman Chavanont Intarakomalyasut for libelling then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in relation to her meeting with businessmen at a Bangkok hotel.

In her suit, Yingluck said that from February 19-21, 2013, Chavanont, 39, gave a press conference that accused her of skipping a Parliamentary session to discuss private business with a group of leading executives and business owners.

The media headlines from Chavanont’s press conference led the public to believe that Yingluck had committed policy corruption, had a conflict of interest or exercised favouritism towards a business group in appraising land values.

Chavanont fought the charges.

The court said Yingluck met with five businessmen at the Four Seasons Hotel, and though the meeting was not secret, no details were released.

At that time, the Cabinet and Yingluck had postponed the restructuring of land assessment and urban planning.

Although she said she had held the meeting to hear business opinions on the issue, the court pointed out that the meeting had only a small group of people attending even though the issue affected the entire country.

There was no similar meeting with other major business organisations and details were not disclosed to outsiders.

The court said the defendant was performing his duty as a member of the opposition and had grounds to doubt the meeting. Though the defendant may have defamed the plaintiff during his press conference, he had the country’s interest in mind.

Chavanont said he hopes this court ruling would set a precedent for future opposition camps in carrying out their checks and balances duties. If they do their work on the basis of protecting the public interest, the court would protect them, he said.

OAG won’t push for Yingluck travel freeze

Posted by pakin On February - 19 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) will not seek a court order to prohibit Yingluck Shinawatra from travelling abroad after it indicts the former prime minister Thursday.

Ms Yingluck is being indicted in connection with the failed rice-pledging scheme.

The OAG has confirmed it will indict Ms Yingluck before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders whether or not she turns up in court as requested by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). A Pheu Thai Party source said the ex-premier will not be present at the indictment hearing.

Ms Yingluck faces charges, under Section 157 of the Criminal Code and Section 123/1 of the 1999 Organic Law on Counter-Corruption, of dereliction of duty regarding alleged corruption in her government’s rice-pledging scheme.

OAG deputy spokesman Kosolwat Inthujanyong said attorneys-general Chutthichai Sakhakorn and Surasak Treerattanakul will file the suit at 10am.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders will then decide whether to accept the suit before setting the trial date.

Asked whether the OAG would make any request to the court about Ms Yingluck’s bail or her ability to travel abroad, Mr Kosolwat said there will be no such requests since the judge panel overseeing the case will consider the issue itself.

The National Council for Peace and Order early this month rejected a request from Ms Yingluck to travel to Hong Kong, saying she was about to be indicted by the OAG. Some fear if she is given permission to go abroad, she will flee the pending court case.

The Pheu Thai Party source said Ms Yingluck is waiting for the opening hearing of the trial to present herself before the court.

National Reform Council member Wanchai Sornsiri pointed out the accused is not legally obliged to report to the court for indictment procedures.

NACC president Panthep Klanarongran said her absence will have no consequences on the case though the anti-graft agency had previously sent Ms Yingluck a letter advising her to attend the indictment.

However, Mr Panthep warned that if the Supreme Court accepts the suit and sets a hearing date, she will have to appear before the court then.

The NACC on Wednesday advised the Finance Ministry to file a suit against Ms Yingluck for her failure to stop the loss-ridden rice-pledging scheme.

Mr Panthep said the ministry should demand at least 600 billion baht in compensation.

The national police chief has ordered Special Branch Police (SBP) to withdraw its officers assigned to provide security for politicians if the practice is not in line with regulations, a police spokesman says.

The move follows growing criticism about the deployment of Pol Col Wathanyu Watcharapalothai as a security officer for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He began serving as Ms Yingluck’s security escort before she left power.

Pictures of Pol Col Wathanyu, assistant duty officer attached to the deputy police chief, accompanying Ms Yingluck including at a department store and during the recent search of her motorcade in Chiang Mai have been shared widely on social media. Some people argue his assignment is inappropriate.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, assistant national police chief and spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, said police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang is concerned about the criticism and has instructed the SBP to look into cases of police or retired officers serving as bodyguards to politicians.

He said if it turns out that requests by politicians or VIPs for police protection are not in line with regulations or deemed inappropriate, those personnel will be withdrawn.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut said the deployment of police on special protection duty has been authorised by others, not by Pol Gen Somyot.

He said the Royal Thai Police (RTP) will review criteria involving the deployment of police as security personnel for politicians to establish a standard practice.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut said officials need to explain the circumstances in which Pol Col Wathanyu was sent to Ms Yingluck.

Pol Col Wathanyu was said to be part of Ms Yingluck’s entourage when she saw her brother Thaksin Shinawatra in Europe in July last year to celebrate his birthday. He also guarded her when she went on holiday in Japan in October and saw her brother there.

Somchai Sawaengkarn, a member of the National Legislative Assembly, says he wants the Royal Thai Police to explain why Pol Col Wathanyu is still assigned to Ms Yingluck.

This was contrary to a RTP order prohibiting its personnel from joining activities with politicians and influential persons, he added.