Former Thai PM impeached over controversial rice scheme

Yingluck Shinawatra, banned from politics for five years, as lawmakers vote overwhelmingly to impeach her.

Yingluck Shinawatra
No date has been set for the formal indictment, but if charged Yingluck faces 10 years in jail

Thailand’s military-appointed legislature has voted to impeach former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over her administration’s controversial rice subsidy programme.

The vote, which means Yingluck will be banned from politics for five years, came just after the attorney general’s office announced separate plans to indict her on criminal charges for negligence related to losses and alleged corruption in the rice scheme.

No date has been set for the formal indictment, but if convicted, Yingluck could face 10 years in jail.

Out of 220 lawmakers present in the National Legislative Assembly in Bangkok, 190 voted to impeach her.

Yingluck’s supporters see the moves as part of an effort to deal a final blow to her party’s political power after last year’s coup.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai analyst at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian studies, told Al Jazeera the impeachment was part of the military’s efforts to legitimise the May 2014 coup. The generals wanted to show that “the coup was necessary and staged to clean Thai politics,” he said.

“But more than that, it is an attempt by the traditional elite to prevent Yingluck and the Shinawatras from coming back to politics should the military be forced to step down and call an election soon,” he said.

During the impeachment hearings, which lasted a fortnight, Yingluck defended the rice scheme as a necessary subsidy to help poor farmers who historically receive a disproportionately small slice of government cash.

Yingluck, Thailand’s first female prime minister and the sister of self-exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, was dumped from office by a controversial court ruling shortly before the army seized power in a coup on May 22 last year.

Source: AP