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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Ousted Thai premier Shinawatra pleads not guilty to criminal negligence charge

During the brief hearing at the Supreme Court

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PHOTO CREDIT: BNN news

BANGKOK - Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal negligence that could see her jailed for a decade, which observers say is a vendetta against her family.

During the brief hearing at the Supreme Court, the ousted premier pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal negligence over a plan to prop up rice prices, which her political opponents called a corrupt bid to buy support from the country's farmers.

"I am confident in my innocence," she told reporters before the hearing.

The Thai Supreme Court approved bail for Yingluck. The trial is expected to take up to a year, during which she is barred from leaving the country.

Her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecom tycoon-turned-politician, was overthrown as prime minister in a 2006 military coup, and now lives in exile.

Yingluck, 47, was removed from office in a coup a year ago and retroactively impeached in January by the military junta that replaced her. The impeachment means she is barred from politics for five years.

She has accused her enemies of conducting a witch hunt against her in order to handicap her powerful family.

About 50 supporters gathered outside the Supreme Court on the northern outskirts of Bangkok including more than a dozen members of Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party.

Many burst into applause and shouts of "Yingluck, fight, fight!" when her convoy pulled up outside the courthouse for the trial.

The rice subsidies, a key policy of Yingluck during her three years in office, involved spending billions to buy the crop at high premiums over market rates. The opposition called it a waste of public funds, and it led to street protests against her.

She has called the program an important effort to support the country's poor.

In a related development, Thailand's junta announced the country's general election will be delayed by at least six months.

Deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters that the polls would take place in August 2016 at the earliest to allow for a referendum on the new constitution.

"It will take place around August or in September," he said.

The government had earlier said elections would take place in February next year.

Since taking power, the junta has come under domestic and international pressure to hold elections, which they say can only take place under a new constitution.

The military abolished an earlier constitution after it took over power and the government operates under a temporary charter.

Drafters of the constitution, appointed by the junta, had recommended that a referendum be held to give public the final say on the blueprint for restoring democratic rule.

Critics say the move is aimed at excluding the powerful Shinawatra family from politics.

The Shinawatras have won every election since 2001, but have faced fierce opposition from the political elites in Bangkok.>BNN

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