PM seeks more witnesses in rice case

A lawyer for caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday said he will ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to call in four more witnesses for the inquiry into whether she failed in her duty in overseeing the government's flagship rice-pledging scheme.

The NACC resolved on Monday to hear testimony from only three of the 11 additional witnesses requested by Ms Yingluck in her defence of charges she was negligent in failing to stop corruption and losses in the programme.

The three are Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan, caretaker deputy prime minister and commerce minister; Yanyong Phuangrach, caretaker deputy commerce minister; and Kittiratt Na-Ranong, caretaker deputy prime minister and finance minister.

The NACC panel excluded the other witnesses on the grounds that they were not relevant to the inquiry.

Lawyer Bancha Porameesanaporn said the NACC’s approval of only three extra witnesses was not acceptable. There were several key witnesses the agency had not let testify.

He would request that four more witnesses be allowed to testify to the anti-graft agency.   

He named caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yubmarung, deputy police chief Worapong Chewpreecha, caretaker PM's deputy secretary-general Pol Maj Gen Tawat Boonfueng and Pichai Chunhavajira, president of the Federation of Accounting Professions.

According to Mr Bancha, Mr Chalerm would argue against the allegation that Ms Yingluck ignored her duty to  address the alleged corruption in the rice programme, and present documentary evidence that the premier had assigned him to oversee the issue. 

Pol Maj Gen Tawat, who chairs a working committee to inspect the rice in the stockpiles, and Mr Pichai would produce evidence to confute the findings of a committee tasked with the accounting of the rice-pledging scheme under then deputy permanent secretary for finance Supa Piyajitti.

Ms Yingluck would be placed at a big disadvantage if the NACC rejected the request for four additional witnesses to testify on her behalf, the lawyer added.

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