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Yingluck Shinawatra verdict : The implications for Thai political life

Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced today to 5 years of jail for negligence in preventing corruption and irregularities in her Pheu Thai government’s rice-pledging scheme.

Boris Sullivan

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Under tight security surrounded the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Offices, her supporters who previously would arrive in a thousand has also shrunk to just less than a hundred.

Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced today to 5 years of jail for negligence in preventing corruption and irregularities in her Pheu Thai government’s rice-pledging scheme.

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has not been seen since her flight days before she was due to hear a verdict on 25 August at the Supreme Court. She had been on trial for negligence in overseeing a rice-pledging scheme that went bad.

Extremely heavy sentences were handed to her former commerce minister and his deputy. Yingluck’s verdict has been rescheduled for 27 September and will be delivered in absentia.
One Pheu Thai leading member said they have met and agreed not to come to court today as she is absent.

Commenting on Yingluck’s whereabout, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said Yesterday he has information about her whereabout but would not disclose until after the verdict is read today.

The 9-member panel of the Supreme Court has scheduled to read the verdict at 9am today.

Yingluck was indicted of alleged negligence in preventing corruption and irregularities in her Pheu Thai government’s rice-pledging scheme.

Her negligence incurred up to 500 billion baht loss to the state and also damaged the country’s rice trading market.

The judgement today for Yingluck was postponed from August 25 when she did not show up in court but left a note to her lawyer to inform the court that she could not arrive in court because she had a balance disorder in the ears.

But the court rejected her reason and viewed her presence was an attempt to escape. The court then seized her 30-million baht bail and issued her arrest warrant. The court also set September 27 or today to read the judgement in absentia.

Ex-premier Yingluck is known to have fled the country with unconfirmed report that she is now in London.

Following her brother Thaksin, Yingluck is the second former prime minister and member of the Shinawatra clan to flee a court ruling. Is this proof of their guilt, or a sign that they believe the prosecutions brought against them were politically motivated?

Unlike last time, police are not expecting a large crowd to turn up on Wednesday. The ruling will nevertheless be closely watched and has important implications.

Whether Yingluck is found guilty and sentenced to up to ten years in prison, found guilty and given a suspended sentence, or even acquitted, the conduct of Thai political life will never be quite the same again. With this precedent, how will future cases of alleged corruption at the highest levels be handled?

The FCCT has assembled a panel of seasoned observers to talk about this important event:

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an award-winning columnist writing in the Bangkok Post and numerous foreign publications, is an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science, and director of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

Phongthep Thepkanjana is a former judge who played a senior role in drafting the 1997 constitution. He was a co-founder and deputy leader of the Thai Rak Thai party and served at various times as justice minister, the energy minister, and minister in the prime minister’s office under Thaksin. After a five-year ban from politics, he returned to political life in 2012 and went on to serve as deputy prime minister and education minister under Yingluck.

7pm, Thursday September 28th
Members: free, Non-members 450 Baht, Thai journalists and Students with VALID ID: 150 Baht
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand
Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel.: 02-652-0580

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