Yingluck to defend rice charges

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Thursday she will present her case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and submit evidence and a witness list in her defence, and seek due process, on charges arising from the rice-pledging scheme.

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The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) announced on Feb 18 there was sufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of dereliction of duty against the premier. The commission said Ms Yingluck knew about alleged corruption in the rice scheme but failed to stop it. The NACC has asked Ms Yingluck to answer the charge on Feb 27.

The caretaker prime minister on Thursday also defended her role in the programme as strictly that of a policymaker with no mandate to order the executors around.

She also questioned the speed at which the National Anti-corruption Commission (NAAC) is considering the case, claiming the 21 days it took from receiving the petitioner's case to deciding to proceed with it was a record.

In a statement on the "Yingluck Shinawatra" Facebook page, the caretaker premier said the NAAC voted to look into the programme's facts as requested by a Democrat Party member and found sufficient evidence on Jan 28 that she might have neglected her duty involving rice distribution and failed to take proper action to stop it.

As chair of the National Rice Committee, she is a policymaker of the scheme while agencies and officials execute the programme based on the laid-down policy and work processes, Ms Yingluck wrote.

As such, she had no authority to order or dominate officials in performing their duties in any way.

Besides, the project was implemented based on a policy approved by cabinet ministers and parliament as required under Section 171 and 178 of the constitution.

Now that she was told she would be investigated, she would like to insist on due-process rights to the evidence and witnesses used against her, as well as a change of the investigators, people she felt may be biased against her.

She claimed to have asked the NAAC for a change of the lead investigator, Vicha Mahakhun, but did not get a reply.

Instead, on Feb 18, Mr Vicha himself announced the NACC unanimously resolved to summons her to hear the charge on Feb 27.

By comparison, she said, corruption charges against the previous government, such as those involving rice distribution, were proceeding much more slowly. The case was filed back in 2009 but was still  in the investigation stage, she said.

To the charge why she did not stop the programme, she said she truly believed in the scheme's benefits and hoped the NAAC will give her a chance to explain her side of the story.

If the NAAC pursues justice, without a hidden agenda, it should not rush the case.

Ms Yingluck also urged the NAAC to prove itself to the public and demonstrate that it does not abuse its power.

She said she stood ready to listen and cooperate with all parties to prove the efficiency and effectiveness of the rice programme for the true benefit of farmers. She was also open to suggestions for its improvement.

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