Thai PM Yingluck probed over 'corrupt rice subsidy scheme'

Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra, Jan 2014 The investigation casts another shadow over the PM has she prepares for February's election

Related Stories

Thailand's official anti-corruption commission says it is investigating Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in connection with the government's controversial rice subsidy scheme.

The policy guarantees Thai rice farmers a much higher price than on the global market, but critics say it is too expensive and vulnerable to corruption.

The commission has already charged one minister, and is investigating others.

The news comes as Ms Yingluck already faces intense pressure to resign.

Anti-government protesters have been marching through the capital, saying they will shut it down until their demands are met.

They accuse her government of being under the control of her brother, ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

They say they want an unelected "People's Council" instead, to reform the electoral system.

Negligence of duty?

The rice purchase scheme was launched in 2011, with the aim of boosting farmers' incomes and helping alleviate rural poverty.

A farmer dries rice grains in Buriram province ( file image) Thailand has long been one of the largest rice exporters in the world

But it has resulted in the accumulation of huge stockpiles of rice, which the government cannot sell.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) says it is looking into Ms Yingluck's role in the scheme, and investigating her for possible negligence of duty.

"Those who oversaw the scheme knew there were losses but did not put a stop to it," NACC spokesman Vicha Mahakhun told a news conference.

As prime minister, Ms Yingluck is nominally the head of the National Rice Committee.

Farmers have traditionally been some of Ms Yingluck's most ardent supporters. Her Pheu Thai Party was helped to power in 2011 by offering to buy rice at above the market price.

But the rice policy is thought to be costing Thailand around $10bn ( £6bn) a year - and the government has been unable to pay farmers for their most recent harvest, because a bond issue last year failed to raise sufficient funds.

That could cost the government support from one of its most important constituencies, according to the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Farmers are already talking about marching on Bangkok in protest, he says.

In addition, if the NACC finds Prime Minister Yingluck guilty, she could be banned from politics, along with other ministers.

Anti-government protester in Thailand, with a defaced image of Ms Yingluck ( file picture) Ms Yingluck is already being criticised on the streets of Bangkok

This would cast another shadow over the election she has called for next month, our correspondent says.

The election is already proving contentious. The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the polls, which it fears will once again return the Shinawatra family to power.

Anti-government protesters have also rejected the elections, demanding electoral reforms.

Ms Yingluck is currently moving around Bangkok to avoid the protesters blockading her office - although police said on Thursday that the crowds on the streets were gradually dwindling in number.

The rallies are the latest twist in a nearly eight-year long saga, which started when Ms Yingluck's brother Thaksin was ousted in a military coup.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Asia stories

RSS

Features

  • Two sphinxes guarding the entrance to the tombTomb mystery

    Secrets of ancient burial site keep Greeks guessing


  • The chequeBig gamble

    How does it feel to bet £900,000 on the Scottish referendum?


  • Tattooed person using tabletRogue ink

    People who lost their jobs because of their tattoos


  • Deepika PadukoneBeauty and a tweet

    Bollywood cleavage row shows India's 'crass' side


  • Relief sculpture of MithrasRoman puzzle

    How to put London's mysterious underground temple back together


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.