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Thailand freezes former PM Yingluck's bank accounts in rice subsidy case

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Thailand freezes former PM Yingluck's bank accounts in rice subsidy case

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BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s justice ministry froze some of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s bank accounts, the ministry and her legal team said on Monday, in relation to a $1 billion fine imposed by the ruling junta over her administration’s rice-subsidy programme. She has filed a court petition to revoke the freezing of her bank accounts and to grant an injunction to suspend asset seizures, saying they were unlawful. Yingluck, whose government was ousted by the junta in a 2014 coup, will deliver a closing statement in a separate criminal case over the rice subsidies next week. The programme, which helped Yingluck sail to victory in a 2011 election, bought rice from farmers at above-market rates and distorted global prices but proved popular with rural voters. Finance Ministry permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse told reporters on Monday that government committees submitted details of 12 bank accounts which belong to Yingluck to the Legal Execution Department, which then took action. Yingluck received a formal notice about her frozen accounts from the department on Monday, her legal team said. Yingluck declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Her supporters have accused the courts of bias in frequently ruling against Yingluck and her family members. The rice scheme was a policy engineered by Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a 2006 coup and lives abroad, to avoid a two-year prison sentence from 2008 for graft in a land purchase case. Thaksin won the hearts of voters in the populous northeast and the north but made enemies among the powerful, military-backed Bangkok elite. In 2015, a military-appointed legislature banned Yingluck from politics for five years after finding her guilty of mismanaging the rice scheme. The Supreme Court will give its verdict in the criminal case against Yingluck on Aug. 25. Yingluck, who says the trial against her is politically motivated, faces up to 10 years in prison if she is found guilty of negligence over her role in the scheme.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Louise Ireland)
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