BANGKOK: Embattled Thai ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra said she was a “victim of politics” in a defiant closing defense on Tuesday at her trial for negligence over a rice subsidy scheme that could see her jailed.
Supporters at the Supreme Court, many with banners reading “We love Yingluck” and “We’re by your side”, mobbed the former prime minister, whose personal appeal in her heartland has surged as her legal travails have deepened.
Yingluck’s government was toppled by the army in 2014 and she was then retroactively impeached.
She faces a criminal charge of negligence over a flagship policy to pay farmers nearly twice the market rate for their crops.
The scheme poured billions of dollars into her rural voter base but also allegedly caused massive graft as brokers sold sub-par rice or declared inflated inventories to scoop up the subsidy.
It left Thailand with huge stockpiles of unsold rice.
The court will issue a verdict on August 25, a ruling that could see Thailand’s first female prime minister jailed for up to 10 years.
In an impassioned hour-long speech to the court, Yingluck said she implemented the scheme in good faith to boost the incomes of Thailand’s poorest.
Calling for the charge to be dismissed she denied turning a blind eye to graft, saying the case was a politically motivated attack led by junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
“I hope I can rely on the court to consider the case based on the facts and (political) environment when I was prime minister and not on the current environment,” she said reading a 17-page defense.
“I am a victim of a subtle political game… I was not involved in corruption and I did not consent to corruption. I have done nothing wrong,” she added.
Her trial over the outcome of a government policy is unprecedented in Thailand, a febrile kingdom where legal claims and counter claims swirl around most key political players.
A guilty verdict also incurs an automatic lifetime ban from politics—a potential gut punch to the Shinawatra clan whose candidates have won every Thai general election since 2001.
The Shinawatras are hated by the arch-royalist army and their supporters among Bangkok’s elite, who for a decade have turned to coups and the courts to regain power after losing elections.