As the country stumbles along, the central bank said Southeast
Asia's second-largest economy, heavily reliant on tourism, was
expected to contract in the first quarter after consumption and
Yingluck has been charged with dereliction of duty for overseeing
the rice-buying scheme, a policy that brought her to power in the
2011 election with the help of the rural poor but that has since run
up huge losses and left hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid.
The charges were brought against her by the National Anti-Corruption
Commission (NACC) which, should it forward the case to the Senate
for possible impeachment, would mean Yingluck being suspended from
It was unclear when such a decision would be made, but it could take
Yingluck spent 30 minutes at the commission's headquarters. Her
legal team carried three cardboard boxes filled with documents to
present to anti-graft officials. Her main defense document was
Yingluck asked for more time to call on 10 witnesses and to submit
further documents to support her defense, NACC member Prasart
Pongsivapai told reporters following the meeting.
The commission will decide on Tuesday whether to extend the
"The prime minister submitted documents in her defense and gave a
short statement," said Prasart. "We have to consider whether (those)
witnesses and documents relate to this scheme. The commission will
act with justice toward the prime minister and in a straight-forward
Yingluck has come under pressure over the past five months from
protesters who have occupied state offices and parts of Bangkok in a
bid to remove her and rid the country of the influence of her
brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Protesters disrupted a February 2 general election, halting voting
in parts of Bangkok and the south. The Constitutional Court
nullified the election this month, throwing Thailand into deeper
turmoil and leaving Yingluck in charge of a caretaker government
with severely restricted powers.
TOLL ON TOURISM
The protests have also taken a heavy toll on the tourism industry
with visitors staying away from the normally bustling capital.
Mathee Supapongs, senior director with the central bank, said he
expected tourism to pick up if there was no further violence from
Twenty-three people have been killed and hundreds wounded in
sporadic violence since the protests kicked off in November.
The Bank of Thailand's private consumption index dropped 1.2 percent
in February from January and 2.5 percent from a year earlier. Its
private investment index was 1.9 percent lower on the month and was
down 7.7 percent on the year.
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Mathee told a news conference that growth could contract in the
first quarter from the fourth but might rebound in the second
"Overall economic activities in February 2014 softened further from
the previous month owing to prolonged political protests. Households
and businesses continued to hold back spending, while imports and
manufacturing production contracted," the Bank of Thailand said in a
Kasikorn Research cut its full-year growth forecast to 1.8 percent
on Monday, down from 3 percent in January. It also predicted an
economic contraction of about 2 percent in the first quarter of 2014
from the previous three months.
Thailand has really been in crisis since Thaksin was ousted in a
2006 coup. The conflict broadly pits the Bangkok-based middle class
and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural
supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.
Yingluck criticized the NACC last week for not giving her enough
time to gather evidence and for fast-tracking the investigation.
Government supporters accuse the courts and independent agencies,
including the NACC, of bias and say several judges are aligned with
the conservative establishment.
Her allegations prompted the anti-graft commission to issue a
statement defending the way it has handled Yingluck's case.
"As there were suspicions that Yingluck abused her position... the
NACC has had to investigate the suspicions to get to the truth," the
NACC said in statement.
"Yingluck has received just and fair treatment (by the NACC) under
the framework of the constitution."
Thais voted on Sunday for half of the country's 150-seat Senate in a
key test of Yingluck's government. A Senate dominated by
anti-government politicians could hasten her exit but any decision
to remove Yingluck would require the votes of three-fifths of the
The results are expected in a week.
(Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat, Pracha Hariraksapitak
and Kitiphong Thaichareon; editing by Nick Macfie)
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