The Central Administrative Court’s decision today that former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not have to pay the 35-billion-baht compensation for state damages stemming from the rice pledging scheme was a surprise to say the least.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had, in 2017, sentenced her to five years in jail for allegedly failing to stop fake government-to-government (G2G) sales of rice under her government’s policy.
The Supreme Court said she was aware but failed to stop the delivery of the corrupted G2G deals with Chinese state enterprises, namely Guangdong Stationery & Sporting Goods Import & Export Corp and Hainan Grain & Oil Industrial Trading.
She then fled the country.
In 2019, former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom who supervised the G2G rice deals was sentenced to 48 years in jail because of his role in the scandal.
The court also convicted 14 other co-defendants which included former deputy commerce minister Poom Saraphol, former Foreign Trade Department Chief Manat Soithong and his deputy Tikamporn Natvoratat, Boonsong’s former secretary Veeravuth Watjanabukkha, and a rice trader Apichart “Sia Piang” Chabsakulporn from Siam Indiga.
On Monday, the Central Administrative Court upheld a 15 billion baht in fine against Manat, Tikhumporn, Boonsong, Poom and former foreign rice trade director Akharaphong Teepwachara.
However, the same court on Friday found that Yingluck does not have to pay her 35-billion-baht fine because the rice pledging scheme was approved by both the national rice committee and the cabinet.
They said that the former premier only knew about the memorandum of understanding of the fake G2G deals but she was not involved with the drafting of the contracts.
They said that the Ministry of Finance, which ordered the fine, had failed to show any clear evidence that Yingluck’s was responsible for the financial damages that occurred to the state.
The investigation into Yingluck’s alleged negligence was also unlawful, they added.
If this is the case it only makes sense that the criminal charges against her be overturned and that Yingluck be allowed to return to the country.
It sets a bad precedence for government anyway and discourages delegation to experts. While there was corruption in this case, any good leader in history have delegated key tasks to experts within their field.
To criminally punish a leader for the crimes of their subordinate and say that they were criminally liable for the actions of their subordinate sets a worrying precedent – one that has repurcussions for this government as well.
Does that mean that Prayut Chan-ocha can now be thrown in jail should there be a shady deal involved in duty frees or petrochemicals?
The ruling today is the correct one, let Yingluck return home.