Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has received a record fine of 1.4 billion US dollars in a Bangkok Court for her role in the so-called “rice scheme”, a subsidy program which brought losses of billions of dollars for Thailand’s government.
Outside the Court in Bangkok, Ms. Shinawatra, who is prosecuted for criminal negligence, said she was presented with an order to pay up the fine in 30 days or have her assets seized.
According to critics, the program was one of Ms. Shinawatra’s main governmental policies and among the reasons she rose to the prime minister’s office in the 2011 elections. According to the program, rice farmers across the country were given prices 50% above the market price. The aim of the plan was to bring wealth to Thai farmers and also allow Thailand to clear supply off the global market and then resell the rice at a higher price.
But thing didn’t go as planned for Thailand. Thanks to the idea, which allowed her to receive massive votes from farmers, Ms. Shinawatra won the elections in 2011, but the results were disastrous for the Kingdom. At that time, Thailand accounted for about 30% of the global rice market. The scheme allowed India and Vietnam to take its’place among the world’s largest rice exporters. Thailand was left with huge rice inventories and warehouses filled to the brim.
More than five years later, Ms Shinawatra is prosecuted for criminal negligence and she was just fined 1.4 billion US dollars in relation with the rice scheme. According to an enquiry by a committee under the auspices of the Finance Ministry, the plan brought more than 178 billion baht in losses for Thailand. The report concluded that Ms. Yingluck should pay 20% of that sum. If she will be found guilty for negligence, she risks spending 10 years behind bars.
Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra is not the only former government official charged in connection with the rice scheme. State prosecutors are investigating more than 850 corruption cases, said government spokesman General Sansern Kaewkamnerd. “Many of the cases involve lower-ranking public officials and members of the private sector,” he said. Meanwhile, Thailand has recovered from the losses and it’s now world’s second rice exporter, after rival India.