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September 27, 2017

Thai court rules former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra as guilty

Thailand’s Supreme Court delivered a verdict on Wednesday ruling that the country’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is guilty in a negligence trial relating to a costly rice subsidy scheme that helped bring her to power in 2011.

She has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Under the rice scheme, Shinawatra’s government bought rice from farmers at double the market value between 2011 and 2013, securing rural support in the process.

The scheme led to stockpiles of the grain, distorted global prices of the commodity and resulted in losses of $8bn according to the military government.

The court was originally scheduled to deliver its verdict on Monday, but Shinawatra was absent.

Fearful that she would receive a harsh sentence, she fled the country last month, reportedly helped by three police officers.

She has already pleaded not guilty to the charges on a number of occasions, including at a Supreme Court hearing in Bangkok two years ago.

Thailand’s military government, otherwise known as the junta, is now led by Prayuth Chan-ocha, who toppled Shinawatra’s government in a May 2014 coup.

In a weekly cabinet meeting earlier this week, Chan-ocha said he knows where Shinawatra is hiding:

I know, but I won’t say yet. I’ll tell you where she is after September 27. I have spies.

A long history of fighting

For more than a decade, Thailand’s ruling military elite and the Shinawatra family have not seen eye to eye.

Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission is pursuing at least 11 other cases relating to Shinawatra’s time as prime minister.

Shinawatra’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, also a former prime minister, was ousted in a 2006 coup.

The majority of rural voters who back the Shinawatras have helped them to win general elections since 2001, but Chan-ocha and his supporters accuse them of widespread corruption.

US president Donald Trump will host Chan-ocha on a visit to Washington on 3 October.

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