BANGKOK — The Administrative Court on Friday repealed the military government’s order to fine former PM Yingluck Shinawatra for 35 billion baht over her loss-ridden rice subsidy program.
The court found the order issued by the finance ministry in 2016 lacks legal standing since the ministry had failed to show any clear evidence of Yingluck, whose government was overthrown in a 2014 coup, was responsible for the financial damages done to the state. It also said that the corruption happened at the operational level.
Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said the authorities will stop seizing Yingluck’s assets for the meantime while filing an appeal. Properties worth less than one percent of the total fine have either been froze or confiscated from Yingluck so far, he added.
“It’s fine because the case is still ongoing,” Wissanu said. “Since the court has given the verdict, we will stop asset seizures and make an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. It now depends on the finance ministry to decide what to do next.”
Yingluck fled Thailand in 2017, shortly before she was found guilty on charges of negligence over the same rice-pledging initiative. She was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison and a warrant was issued for her arrest, which Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party and her supporters decried the sentence as politically motivated.
Asked whether the Administrative Court’s verdict would contradict the conviction handed earlier by the Supreme Court, Wissanu said he could not tell.
“I don’t know,” Wissanu said. “If the court of first instance doesn’t find her guilty, we can make an appeal.”
Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of royalist Thai Phakdee Party who petitioned the national anti-graft commission to investigate the program when he was a Democrat MP in 2012, said he was surprised by the ruling.
“Yingluck might be aware of irregularities in the transactions,” Warong said. “The government should make an appeal immediately.”
The program was meant to help farmers to sell rice at a higher price by offering them to take their rice as a mortgage in exchange for loans at a fixed price, though it was engulfed by allegations of corruption and ended up in a loss as high as 536 billion baht, according to the junta’s inquiry committee.