Thailand's attorney general has brought criminal charges against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for negligence related to her government's money-losing rice subsidy scheme.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General submitted 20 boxes of the case's documents to the Supreme Court's criminal division, accusing Yingluck of neglect in overseeing a rice subsidy scheme that lost billions of dollars.

The failed subsidy scheme temporarily cost Thailand its crown as the world's top rice exporter.

The move is likely to prolong conflicts in a divided nation plagued by political turmoil and coups and is widely seen as another attempt to cripple the political machine of Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and prevent his allies from returning to power.

Thaksin was overthrown in a coup in 2006 and has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008.
 

His sister became Thailand's first female prime minister in the July 2011 general election but was in office for just under three years before the Constitutional Court forced her to step down in early May 2014 after finding her guilty of abusing her power.

Compensation sought

Thursday's accusations came one month after Yingluck was impeached on similar grounds by the military-appointed legislature, which means she was also banned from politics for five years.

The Supreme Court will set up a nine-judge panel, which will decide on March 19 whether to accept the case and formally indict Yingluck.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission on Wednesday recommended that the Finance Ministry sue Yingluck for compensation for damage caused by the rice scheme and suggested the amount should be at least $18.4bn.

The rice-buying scheme, a flagship policy that helped Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party win elections in 2011, had accumulated losses of at least $4.46bn since it was introduced in 2011, as the Thai government stockpiled rice to avoid even bigger losses.

Under the scheme, farmers were paid about 50 percent above what they would get on the world market. The anti-graft body alleged that Yingluck failed to stop massive losses to state coffers.

Source: Agencies