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Thai Ex-PM Facing Criminal Charges

  • VOA News

Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, center, walks through supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, May 19, 2015.

Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, center, walks through supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, May 19, 2015.

Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has appeared in court to face criminal charges over a mismanaged rice subsidy program that cost the country billions of dollars.

Yingluck, who was ousted as prime minister last year, was greeted by dozens of supporters who chanted her name as she arrived at the Bangkok Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The ex-prime minister told reporters she is certain she will not be found guilty of the charges, which carry a possible sentence of 10 years in jail.

"I would like to say that we are really confident in my innocence and are confident to present to the court with the evidence and the witness," she said as she arrived at the Supreme Court in Bangkok.

At the Tuesday hearing, Yingluck pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. The next hearing is scheduled for July 21.

Yingluck is charged with dereliction of duty for failing to stop corruption within the subsidy program, which paid farmers about two times the market price for their rice.

She claims the case against her is politically motivated and insists the subsidies improved the quality of life for Thai farmers. Her opponents say the program was an attempt to win the farmers' political support.

Following months of protests, a Thai court removed Yingluck from office last May. Days later, the country's military seized power in a military coup. Thailand's military-appointed legislature has since retroactively impeached her and banned her from politics for five years.

She is the younger sister of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, himself ousted in a military coup in 2006. Thaksin fled Thailand in 2008 when faced with a two-year sentence for corruption. But Thaksin and his Pheu Thai Party remain popular, especially in rural areas.

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