By Kasamakorn Chanwanpen,
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s legal team expects a court verdict in the criminal negligence case against her over the controversial rice-pledging scheme by the middle of next year, one of her lawyers said yesterday.
Noppadon Laothong, who is a part of Yingluck’s legal team, told The Nation yesterday that the trial had made good progress.
The cross-examination of defence witnesses were expected to be completed by mid-July and the verdict was likely soon after, according to a source close to Yingluck.
Regarding the civil case in which Yingluck faces an administrative order to pay billions of baht in compensation, Noppadon said it could take years before a verdict was delivered. The legal team has not yet submitted an appeal in that case to the authorities, he added.
Yingluck yesterday went to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders to attend a hearing of defence witnesses in the criminal negligence case against her. The case stems from her government’s allegedly corruption-plagued rice-pledging scheme.
She told reporters at the court that she would “fight this case until the end” and maintained she was innocent.
At yesterday’s court hearing, Pansak Winyarat, an adviser to the then premier, said he had no knowledge of corrupt practices in the Yingluck government’s rice-pledging scheme or the alleged fake government-to-government deals to sell Thai rice to China.
Pansak, a witness for Yingluck, said the rice-pledging scheme was beneficial to the economy since it boosted domestic consumption, created jobs and also generated more tax revenue.
As chairman of Yingluck’s economic advisory committee, he said the economic benefits of the scheme could not be quantified but noted that the global economy was not good at the time. Thailand’s dependence on exports was as much as 70 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) so the rice-pledging scheme helped generate economic growth during a difficult period, he told the court.
Asked if the scheme was a fiscal burden, Pansak said it was a burden but the government should manage the consequences for public benefit.
Yingluck is facing charges filed by public prosecutors in the Supreme Court’s Division for Political Office Holders for negligence of official duty while implementing the rice-pledging scheme which resulted in a massive loss of nearly Bt500 billion.
Meanwhile, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, another defence witness, told the court yesterday there was evidence that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, on May 18, 2015, had ordered the PM’s Office, the Finance and Commerce ministries to quickly wrap up the civil liability case against Yingluck by Feburary 2016 without due process of law.