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Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
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Photo courtesy of Japan Times.

Summary: Ex-Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced to five years in prison this week. 

This week, former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was convicted of dereliction of duty because of her part in a controversial rice subsidy scheme that cost the country $8 billion.

  
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According to CNN, Yingluck did not appear at the verdict reading at Thailand’s Supreme Court, just like she had failed to appear on August 25. The August date was the original scheduling reading, but Yingluck had fled the country.

Yingluck was facing almost a decade in prison for her role in a rice-buying scheme that started in 2011. She pledged to buy rice from farmers above the market rate, and critics said that this practice was wasteful and left the government with huge stockpiles of product that they couldn’t sell.

Farmers loved that Yingluck had paid them double the market rate, but critics said that the policy left the government open to corruption.

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Yingluck had argued that she had done nothing wrong and that criticism was purely motivated by political bias. In 2014, she was overthrown as prime minister by a military coup.

When Yingluck was elected in 2011, she was Thailand’s first female prime minister and the youngest PM in 60 years, according to CNN. Her brother was also a Thai prime minister, but he had fled the country for Dubai after a corruption scandal.



The trial over the rice scheme took two years, and in 2015, Yingluck was barred from leaving Thailand but she secretly fled anyway. She is reportedly in Dubai with her brother.

Thai’s Supreme Court judges said that Yingluck was aware of some of the corrupt rice deals but did nothing to stop it.

“The accused knew that the government-to-government rice contract was unlawful but did not prevent it,” the court said. “Which is a manner of seeking unlawful gains. Therefore, the action of the accused is considered negligence of duty.”

Yingluck said she was unaware of the day-to-day operations of the rice-buying scheme, and The BBC said that this verdict sets an “awkward precedent.”

“The verdict sets an awkward precedent, criminalizing a prime minister for a policy, which was a central part of her election manifesto,” Jonathan Head of the BBC said. “There has been no suggestion that she was herself involved in any corruption.”

The BBC said that it is unlikely Yingluck will serve her five-year sentence because she is not in the country.

On the day of the verdict reading, a small crowd came to show their support for the divisive figure, who is well-loved by the poor in Thailand but hated by the middle and upper classes.

What do you think of Yingluck’s sentence? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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