Embattled Thai PM to miss anti-graft hearing

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THAILANDnewBANGKOK: Thailand’s premier is set to skip an anti-corruption panel hearing on Thursday into negligence charges   that could lead to her removal from office, as she grapples with a four-month deadly political crisis.

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Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is fighting for her political survival as pressure mounts on several fronts—in the streets, the courts and from the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The backdrop is a long-standing struggle between a royalist establishment—are backed by the judiciary and the military—and Yingluck’s billionaire family which has strong support in the northern half of Thailand.

The prime minister’s critics welcome the graft probe as a long-overdue attempt to hold the government to account, but to her supporters it is part of an attempted power grab.

Yingluck, who has protested her innocence, will not personally attend the appointment to acknowledge allegations linked to her government’s flagship rice farm subsidy scheme, her office said.

“She assigned her lawyers to represent her,” said Ying–luck’s deputy secretary Thawat Boonfuang.

Yingluck flew to her political stronghold in northern Thailand on Wednesday where she is expected to spend several days inspecting government-backed projects.
She said last week that she was “willing to cooperate to establish the facts.”

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which filed charges against Yingluck earlier this month, says she ignored warnings that the rice scheme was fostering corruption and causing financial losses.

If found guilty she could face a five-year ban from politics.

It is unclear how long the commission will take to reach a conclusion.

If the panel decides that Yingluck is guilty, the case will be referred to the partially elected upper house of parliament for an impeachment vote.

It follows a wave of political violence, often targeting protesters, that has left 22 people dead and hundreds wounded, with a string of shootings and grenade blasts by unknown attackers in recent days.

AFP

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