Thai Authorities Freeze Ex-PM Yingluck’s Bank Accounts

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2017-07-25
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170725-TH-Yingluck-1000 Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gestures to supporters as she appears for a hearing at the Supreme Court, July 21, 2017.
Nontarat Pchaicharoen/BenarNews

Thai authorities have frozen bank accounts belonging to ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who faces a possible fine of U.S. $1 billion and conviction over a failed rice scheme during her administration, government officials and her lawyer said Tuesday.

Without offering an explanation Finance Ministry officials told reporters that they had frozen seven of Yingluck’s accounts and planned to freeze another five.

“We will proceed as per the request with 10-year statute of limitation,” said Reunrudee Suwanmongkol, director of the ministry’s legal department. She declined to disclose the amount of money held in the accounts, citing confidentiality of the legal proceedings.

The ministry undertook the move while the 50-year-old Yingluck, Thailand’s first female prime minister whose net worth is valued at about U.S. $17 million, stands trial on charges of negligence in the rice-subsidy scheme.

Apart from the billion-dollar fine, she faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of negligence for allegedly failing to stop graft related to the rice scheme. A verdict is due out on Aug. 25.

Yingluck’s lawyer told reporters on Tuesday that authorities had locked seven accounts with Bangkok Bank out of his client’s 12 bank accounts.

Yingluck turned to social media on Tuesday, describing the pre-verdict freezing of her accounts as a “judicial misguidance.”

“The move reflects an attempt to judicially misguide the Supreme Court’s verdict of the rice scheme trial prematurely,” Yingluck told her 6 million Facebook followers. She said she was innocent of the charges.

A legal expert told BenarNews that the freezing of Yingluck’s accounts was aimed at preventing her from transferring her money elsewhere ahead of the verdict.

The Supreme Court began Yingluck’s trial in January 2016 by charging her with failing to prevent corruption in the rice scheme.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the current prime minister who led a military coup that deposed Yingluck in May 2014, created committees to proceed with a separate civil case to force her to pay for damages resulting from the failed rice scheme.

During her three-year tenure, Yingluck adopted a strategy in which the government bought rice from farmers at inflated prices, stockpiling their crop in government silos to manipulate prices by reducing global supply. But the strategy backfired – the rice rotted and world prices never reached the anticipated price.

Thailand, one of the world’s major rice suppliers, exported about 9.8 million tons valued at $4.6 billion in 2015, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association. China and the Philippines were the top buyers of Thai rice.

Thailand’s 23 million rice farmers also form the country’s largest constituent bloc, because they represent more than half of the country’s eligible voting population.

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