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Thai anti-graft panel gives more time to Yingluck defence

AFP | Last Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 19:14

Bangkok: Thailand`s anti-corruption body on Thursday gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra two more weeks to submit her defence over negligence charges that could lead to her being removed from office.

The embattled premier`s legal team was supposed to present its case by Friday but asked for a 45-day extension because of the amount of evidence it needed to collect, the country`s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) said in a statement.

They were granted a shorter extension of 15 days, starting from Friday, the statement said.

The NACC filed charges against Yingluck in February, saying she had ignored warnings that a rice subsidy scheme was fostering corruption and causing financial losses.

Yingluck has protested her innocence but if found guilty she faces an impeachment vote in the upper house and a possible five-year ban from politics, as well as potential imprisonment by the courts on criminal charges.

The rice scheme, which guarantees farmers above-market rates for their produce, has become a lightning rod for anger among anti-government protesters.

They say it has encouraged corruption, drained the public coffers and left the country with a mountain of unsold stock.

The government has faced months of mass protests calling for Yingluck to step aside in favour of an unelected "people`s council" to tackle what opponents see as a culture of money-driven politics.

They accuse Yingluck`s elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra -- a billionaire tycoon-turned-premier who was ousted from office by royalist generals in 2006 -- of running the government from overseas, where he lives to avoid a jail term for corruption.

The backdrop is a longstanding struggle between a royalist establishment, backed by the judiciary and the military, and Yingluck`s billionaire family which has strong support in the northern half of Thailand.

Her administration has limited caretaker powers because opposition demonstrators disrupted a general election last month.

The authorities have also suffered a series of legal defeats by the courts, which have been accused by government supporters of colluding with the opposition to try to oust Yingluck.

First Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 19:14

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