Hundreds Show Support for Former Thai PM as Rice Scheme Trial Nears an End

  • Hundreds Show Support for Former Thai PM as Rice Scheme Trial Nears an End

    Reuters

    Ousted former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court for a trial on criminal negligence, which looks into her role in a debt-ridden rice subsidy scheme during her administration, in Bangkok, Thailand July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom REUTERS

     
    By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Aukkarapon Niyomyat
    BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrived at a Bangkok court to shouts of encouragement from her supporters on Friday, two weeks before the final stages of a case about her involvement in a ruinously expensive state rice subsidy scheme.
    Yingluck, whose government was ousted in a 2014 military coup, faces up to 10 years in prison if she is found guilty of negligence over her role in the scheme, which proved popular with rural voters but was a disaster for state coffers.
    The former prime minister and opposition say the trial is politically motivated and is aimed at undermining the populist movement that has won every election since 2001. The movement is opposed by Thailand's powerful military and conservative elite.
    Around 500 supporters showed up outside the court on Friday, police said, the largest turnout in many months. One wrote "Love the prime minister" on his hand, while others shouted: "fight, fight". Yingluck has denied the charges against her.
     
    The military has said it will deploy troops to maintain security on July 21, when a final hearing in the case is expected.
    Yingluck's critics see the rice case as a litmus test of the junta's sincerity in tackling corruption in politics, one of its promises after it seized power in 2014.
    Closing statements in the case will be delivered within 30 days of the final hearing, court officials said.
    "I'm confident in the witnesses we've presented," Yingluck told crowds outside the court.
    "The encouragement I've been given is still good ... this is a strong characteristic of the Thai people," she said.
    STREET PROTESTS
    Successive Thai governments have supported farmers since the 1980s, but none of the schemes has proved as popular with rural voters as the rice programs pioneered by Yingluck's brother, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
     
    Yingluck's government went a step further, promising to buy rice from farmers at some 50 percent above the market price.
    The scheme helped her to sail to victory in a 2011 general election, making her the country's first female prime minister.
    However, public losses from the scheme fueled street protests against Yingluck that eventually saw her removed from power just weeks before the 2014 coup.
    The scheme also saw Thailand lose its crown as the world's top rice exporter as other countries, notably Vietnam and India, filled the void when Thailand held back rice stocks it had bought from farmers.
    The military government has managed to sell off most of about 18 million tonnes of rice accumulated during the rice scheme, some of it for industrial purposes, according to the commerce ministry.
    Yingluck said on Friday she was not sure when she would deliver her closing statement.
    (Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Paul Tait)
  • Thailand’s government approves rice insurance scheme

  • Bangkok (VNA) – Thailand’s rice insurance scheme for this year’s first crop began on July 3 after it was approved by the cabinet last week. The programme, worth 2 billion THB (around 58.84 million USD), will be run by the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). It is expected to be applied on 25-30 million rai (40.000- 48.000 square kilometres) of rice farmland and cover insurance for natural disasters, including floods, droughts, storms, cold, hail and fires. Farmers will receive compensation of 1,260 THB (37.07 USD) a rai (equivalent to 1,600 square metres) this year, up from 1,111 THB (32.69 USD) per rai offered in 2016, in case of crops damage by natural disasters and 630 THB (18.53 USD) a rai in the event of pests and diseases, up from last year’s 555 THB (16.33 USD). [Thailand announces new loan schemes for rice farmers] This year’s insurance premium is scheduled at 97.37 THB (2.86 USD) per rai, down from 107.42 THB (3.16 USD) per rai last year for farmers with less than 25 million rai and 108.07 THB (3.18 USD) per rai for those with more than 25 million rai. The government is expected to pay 61.37 THB (1.81 USD) a rai in compensation this year. The insurance scheme is planned to run from June to August 31 for farmers living in different parts of the country, except for the southern provinces, where it will last until December 15. Data released by the Office of Agricultural Economics shows Thailand has 58.7 million rai (93.920 square kilometers) of rice fields in total. The Ministry of Finance is studying whether to expand the insurance programme to cover off-season rice and corn.-VNA
  • Thailand Rice Convention kicks off in Bangkok

  • THAILAND-BANGKOK-RICE CONVENTION
    Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha addresses the opening ceremony of Thailand Rice Convention 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand, May 29, 2017. Beginning on Monday, the three-day event aims to set the stage for world rice consumers and producers to brainstorm about new visions for sustainable industrial development. (Xinhua/Thai Government House)   Read more