Yingluck is the younger sister of another deposed prime minister,
Thaksin Shinawatra, whose nearly 10-year struggle for power with the
royalist establishment has subverted stability and divided a country
once seen as a surging economic "tiger".
Yingluck was an executive in a Shinawatra family company before she
became Thailand's first woman prime minister in 2011, swept to power
by the self-exiled Thaksin's legions of loyal voters among the urban
and rural poor.
The National Anti-Corruption Committee said on Thursday it would
press dereliction of duty charges against Yingluck, saying a
rice-buying scheme run by her government had incurred billions of
dollars in losses which she had failed to stem.
The rice scheme, which paid farmers way above market rates for their
harvest, was at the heart of her administration's populist policies
and was widely seen by critics as a blatant bid to lock-in votes in
In addition to the huge financial losses, the scheme left Thailand
with rice stock piles that it has struggled to offload.
Speaking to the media for the first time since a court forced her
from office for abuse of power just days before the May 22 coup,
Yingluck accused the anti-corruption agency of preventing her from
defending herself properly.
"I tried to submit (more) evidence but the NACC refused to accept
it," a defiant Yingluck said in a statement delivered at a Bangkok
hotel owned by her family. "Blaming rice quality and the
disappearance of rice on me is not right."
If the case is taken up by the courts and she is found guilty,
Yingluck, 47, could face time in jail.
'READY TO RETURN'
Yingluck's government never revealed the full extent of the rice
scheme's losses. Critics said it was riddled with corruption and the
military is auditing rice stocks nationwide to assess the costs
[to top of second column]
The military briefly detained Yingluck and hundreds of other
politicians, activists, academics and journalists after the coup,
which it says it had to stage to restore order after months of
sometimes violent protests against her government.
The military has curtailed political activity and banned many
critics from leaving the country but said on Thursday Yingluck could
travel to Europe this month as long as she stayed out of politics.
She is expected to attend a party for her brother's 65th birthday
and she rejected any suggestion she might not come back to dodge the
charges against her.
"I am traveling for personal reasons and there was a clear travel
period set before the NACC announcement. I am ready to come back,"
Yingluck's supporters accuse the courts and independent agencies,
including the NACC, of bias and say they are aligned with an
establishment intent on ridding the country of the influence of
Thaksin, a brash former telecommunications tycoon who broke the
political mould with populist pro-poor policies.
Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and sentenced in absentia in 2008
to two years in prison over a corrupt land deal. He has lived abroad
ever since although he remains a huge influence over politics.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)
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