Yingluck rice auction winner probed after political nominee doubts

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2024

Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai on Tuesday gave the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) seven days to investigate the winner of the auction of 10-year-old rice from the Yingluck government’s subsidy scheme. 

Doubts about V8 Intertrading Ltd, the Kamphaeng Phet company that won the auction, arose after financial records showed it has registered capital of only 2 million baht, an operating budget of just 1 to 2 million baht and accumulated debt of 13 million baht.  

Phumtham said the investigation was necessary to ensure the company, which offered 286 million baht or about 19.07 baht per kilo for the rice, is not the nominee of a political party and is capable of fulfilling the purchase contract.

“This move aims to ensure transparency and solve public concern,” he said. 

He added that the auction price of 19.07 baht per kilo was satisfactory compared with the previous sale price of 5 baht per kilo for the stockpiled rice. 

The PWO will also check whether V8 Intertrading executives have taken posts in another Kamphaeng Phet company that has been blacklisted. Phumtham said the unidentified company is located in the same area as V8 Intertrading, but it exported mainly cassava and only a small amount of rice.

If the auction winner is found to have violated the terms of reference, the Commerce Ministry will negotiate the contract with the second-highest bidder, the minister said. 

Phumtham insisted the 10-year-old rice was still of good quality, as proven by the demand from bidders. 

“We want to sell the rice, but the announcement of the auction winner must be postponed for a while,” he said.

Yingluck was sentenced to five years in jail in September 2017 after being found guilty of negligence in overseeing her government’s rice scheme, which offered farmers double the market price for their crop. Irregularities in the scheme coupled with a collapse in the global rice price are thought to have cost the state over 37 billion baht. Yingluck faced trial under the NCPO junta after her Pheu Thai-led government was ousted by the military in 2014, but she fled abroad before the verdict was delivered.  

Speculation is growing that Yingluck is set to follow her brother Thaksin by returning to the country, after Pheu Thai rose back to power following last year’s election. Thaksin returned to the country after 15 years of self-exile in August last year.