Yingluck rice-pledging case: possible outcomes of court’s verdict

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Offices will on Friday Aug 25 hand down two verdicts on cases related to the rice pledging scheme.

One case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra charged with dereliction of duty in the handling of the scheme causing extensive damage to the state and the other against former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom; former deputy commerce minister Poom Saraphol and over 20 other people in connection with the G-to-G rice deal with a Chinese company.

For Ms Yingluck's case, political observers said that the outcome of the court's judgement of this historical case would determine the political future of the Shinawatra family and the Pheu Thai Party.

Also, it will set a precedent about the accountability of the government leader toward national administration.

Besides being charged with dereliction of duty in accordance with Section 157 of the Criminal Code, Ms Yingluck was also charged with violation of Anti-Corruption Act B.E, 2542 for her alleged failure to suspend the scheme resulting to extensive damage to the state estimated at hundreds of billions baht.

On top of the case in the Supreme Court, Ms Yingluck is also challenging an administrative order in the Central Administrative Court for her to pay 35 billion baht in compensation to the state for the loss from the rice pledging scheme following a resolution of the National Legislative Assembly on Jan 23, impeaching and banning her from politics for five years.

She has filed a lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court seeking a stay of execution of the Finance Ministry's order to freeze her assets.

In interviews with Thai PBS's political desk, legal experts and political analysts summed up five possible outcomes of the court's verdict on Ms Yingluck's rice-related case as follows:

1. Ms Yingluck is found guilty of the charges of dereliction of duty and failure to suspend the rice scheme and will face criminal penalties.

2. She is found guilty of all charges, but is given suspended jailterm because she used to be the prime minister and did good deeds for the country.

3. She is found guilty of all charges and will face criminal penalties, but is not required to pay compensation to the state.

4. She is found not guilty, but is required to pay compensation for the loss because her failure to suspend the project was unintentional.

5. She is found not guilty but whether she is required to pay compensation for the damage or not depends on the consideration of the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Whatever the outcome of the verdict, a political scientist said it is essential that the verdict must be clear, reasonable and can be explained to the public which will help ease political conflict in the aftermath of the judgement.

Associate Professor Yuttaporn Issarachai, dean of political science faculty of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open university, said that whatever the outcome, the verdict will draw widespread criticisms as in the case of the Aug 2, 2017 acquittal verdict on former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and other co-defendants over the crackdown of yellow-shirt protesters on Oct 7, 2008.

These cases are politically-related. Even if the court has attached to facts and legal basis in deliberation of the case and in making the judgement, there will always be dissatisfaction and questions raised by people who disagree with the verdict, said Mr Yuttaporn.

But as far as security is concerned, about 3,000 policemen will be deployed at and around the court on Aug 25 to maintain law and order as over 1,000 of supporters of Ms Yingluck are expected to show up to give her moral support.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)