THAILAND’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has defended the regime’s order seeking BHT35.7 billion (US$1 billion) in compensation from his ousted predecessor Yingluck Shinawatra as punishment for her role in her administration’s failed rice scheme.
According to Bangkok Post, the leader said he believes the fine to be fair, noting that the quantum was decided after consultation with lawyers, including those who drafted the 1996 Tort Liability by Officer Act. He said his legal advisers assured him that the punishment does not violate the spirit of the law.
The administrative order against Yingluck was issued in accordance with the Act, and was formally served on the former Thai leader last week.
“This is what has to be done. The legal officers confirmed this is not a violation of the law’s spirit. If you want to give explanations, just do so in court.
“Do not explain this through the media. I will not argue about it anymore,” Prayuth was quoted saying.
The junta chief was responding to criticisms of his government’s decision to impose such a hefty fine on Yingluck over the rice subsidy intiative.
The controversial scheme that paid farmers above market rates for their rice was a key policy of Yingluck’s government, and has been credited for her ascension to the office of prime minister in the 2011 federal polls. The scheme was launched in October that year to fulfill the Pheu Thai Party’s election pledge to farmers, who formed a large segment of the party’s voting base.
The BHT35 billion fine was fixed by a state-appointed committee that decided last month the quantum was fitting due to her role in the scheme that led to massive losses for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 rice crop.
After she was served the order, Yingluck said vowed to fight what she labelled an unfair punishment.
On Monday, the leader of the Pheu Thai Party slammed the military regime for the punishment, accusing it of applying different standards on Yingluck.
“In the past, there were many public policies that used state funds to solve problems, but no former prime minister had to take responsibility for them, even in clear cases of losses of state funds.
“What’s also important: Does a government from a coup have legitimacy to demand accountability from the government that it seized power from?” Pheu Thai Secretary General Phumtham Wechayachai wrote on Facebook, according to Khaosod English.
Plumtham also reportedly said it was unclear whether Yingluck should be held accountable for the failed scheme, and that the civil liability law was enacted to protect state officials from liability unless they were found to have deliberately broken the law.
But Prayuth insisted that it was his government’s duty to bring the matter to the court and to let the judicial process run its course.
“I want you to hear what the outcome will be. I do not want you to create conflicts on all the issues,” he said, according to Bangkok Post.
He also said Yingluck had the right to have her lawyer petition against the order, and that should this bid fail, she could still appeal for a lighter burden of compensation.
Meanwhile, the authorities are still in pursuit of the officials deemed responsible for the remaining 80 percent of losses in the rice scheme. Yingluck was found guilty by the state committee for 20 percent of losses and not for that incurred between 2011 and 2012.
The former premier, who was ousted by the military junta in a 2014 coup, can appeal the order within 45 days of receipt. She is also being tried for negligence and faces up to 10 years’ jail if convicted.