PM seeks extra 45 days over rice probe

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday asked for another 45-day delay in defending herself against charges of negligence of duty over alleged irregularities in the rice-pledging scheme.

Norawit Lalaeng, Ms Yingluck's lawyer, submitted the request for another postponement to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday morning, citing that the premier’s legal team had yet to receive all documents relating to the NACC’s rice-subsidy scheme probe it had requested earlier. 

Ms Yingluck is supposed to meet the anti-graft agency on Monday to defend herself against allegations she failed to address corruption within the scheme.  

The NACC announced its decision to charge the premier on Feb 18. Ms Yingluck failed to meet the panel to acknowledge the matter late last month. 

Her lawyer asked the NACC to postpone the March 14 deadline for her response to the graft charges and give her 45 more days, but the agency gave Ms Yingluck only 15 more days to present her case. 

Mr Norawit said he had filed a request with the NACC seeking to examine 19 more documents that indicated Ms Yingluck’s implications in the alleged corruption in the rice programme. The agency gave him a 280-page dossier but the contents in the report did not entirely match the information he had requested.

He said the 49-page report detailing the NACC's probe into the programme that he had received earlier was only based on the opinion of deputy finance permanent secretary Supa Piyajitti.

Ms Supa became the centre of public attention in May last year after she unveiled corruption in the scheme and huge losses to the public. 

Mr Norawit also said he had submitted letters to 10 state agencies involved with the pledging programme to ask for information since March 19 but had yet to receive a response from all of them. 

As a result, the premier would face a big disadvantage if she has to testify before the agency on March 31, the lawyer said. 

He called on the NACC to make a public clarification if it denied the plea to give 45 more days to Ms Yingluck to defend herself.

When asked what kind of evidence Ms Yingluck was seeking from the anti-graft agency, Mr Norawit said: “We want the NACC to tell us loud and clear what offences the premier has committed so we can clarify [her position] correctly,” according to Isara News Agency (INA). 

“And where is the corruption [in the rice scheme] exactly. The NACC should have said it straight away so that we can find information to clarify our stand against it correctly,” he argued after being told the NACC found Ms Yingluck had neglected her duty and had failed to stop corruption in the programme. 

Asked if the premier would testify before the NACC herself, he said it was not decided yet and the legal team would discuss the matter with her again. 

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