Bangkok: Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expected on Sunday to mount her defence against negligence charges linked to a controversial rice subsidy scheme that could presage her removal from office and a ban from politics.
Yingluck has been summoned to appear before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) today after a bid to push back the deadline for her defence was rejected.
She could face an impeachment vote in the upper house of parliament within weeks.
The scheme, which paid farmers above market rates for their crop, has become a lightning rod for anger from her political opponents who have massed on Bangkok`s streets for months in a bid to topple her government.
They allege the subsidy scheme punched a hole in Thai finances, battered the country`s rice producing industry and fostered massive corruption -- all to shore up Yingluck`s rural electoral base.
The NACC filed charges against Yingluck in February, saying she had ignored warnings over the subsidy scheme.
The embattled premier has said she is innocent but if she is found guilty 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.
It was unclear late yesterday if she would contest the charge in person or through her lawyers.
Norrawit Larlaeng, one of her legal team, last week said the premier had not been given enough time to respond to the charge.
"The investigation against her has been rushed and it is unfair as we cannot see the evidence," he said.
Observers say the crisis now appears to be entering a crucial new phase.
Polls for the elected portion of the Senate -- representing a narrow majority of the upper house -- were successfully held yesterday with an estimated 40 percent turnout.
The rest of the house is appointed by institutions seen as being allied to the anti-government establishment, including the Constitutional Court and Election Commission.