Hundreds cheer on former Thai Premier Yingluck as her verdict nears


BANGKOK — Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday made an appearance at the Supreme Court for the last witness hearing over her controversial rice subsidy scheme as hundreds of supporters cheered her on.

A charge of criminal negligence was brought against Yingluck by the attorney general in February 2015 over her alleged mismanagement of the scheme, which ended up costing the country between US$4 billion and US$17 billion.

Friday marks the final court hearing in the two-year trial for witness testimonies about the scheme.

She is scheduled to deliver her closing statement on Aug. 1 and the verdict will be handed down Aug. 25.

The near conclusion came after the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed Yingluck’s call for more witness testimonies and a request to have the Constitutional Court’s ruling on whether her trial was unlawful.

If found guilty, Yingluck could face up to 10 years in prison and would be disqualified from becoming prime minister again.

She also has been issued a fine worth nearly US$1 billion by the junta over the financial losses from the scheme, a ruling she is still appealing.

The former premier on Friday declined to comment on her case.

Despite her impeachment and a subsequent coup in 2014, Yingluck remains popular among supporters, mainly the rural population in the north and north-eastern regions. More than 500 people turned out to applaud and cheer her on on Friday.

“Yingluck, fight, fight,” her supporters chanted.

“We love prime minister Yingluck,” said Kittisak Jampen, a farmer in a harvesting hat who had traveled some 380 kilometers from the northern province of Phitsanulok.

“Her rice policy was the best that has ever been,” he said. “Her trial was an absolute injustice.”

Almost 200 police officers were deployed to ensure public order, as the military government has banned political gatherings of more than four people.