Thailand's attorney general on Thursday filed criminal charges against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra over negligence in connection to her government’s controversial rice subsidiary program. A nine-judge panel set up by the country’s Supreme Court will reportedly decide on March 19 whether to pursue the criminal case.
Prosecutors submitted the case documents to the Supreme Court's criminal division for politicians, accusing Yingluck of dereliction in monitoring the rice subsidy program, according to media reports. The program, which was introduced in 2011, allegedly resulted in the loss of billions of dollars as the government purchased rice from local farmers at above-market prices.
If convicted, the nation's first female prime minister could face up to 10 years in prison. Yingluck was ordered to step down shortly before the military staged a coup last May and seized power from her elected government. The junta-led government is also considering launching a civil suit to seek nearly $18 billion in compensation for damages caused by the scheme, BBC reported.
"The finance ministry oversees damages to the state and is ready to take action," Thailand's Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said Wednesday, according to Channel News Asia.
The criminal charges against Yingluck come a month after she was impeached by the country's military appointed legislature, and are widely seen as an attempt by authorities to restrict the political influence of Yingluck's fugitive brother -- former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra -- who was overthrown in a coup in 2006, and prevent his allies from returning to power.
The rice subsidy program was one of the main campaign messages that Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party ran on, winning her a landslide victory in 2011. The program had earlier been promoted by Thaksin, who now lives in exile.