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Ousted Thai PM indicted over rice subsidy scheme

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May 8, 2014 05:55 AM EST | AP

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BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's anti-graft commission indicted ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday on charges of dereliction of duty in overseeing a widely criticized rice subsidy program, a day after a court forced her from office.

Yingluck was accused of allowing the rice program, a flagship policy of her administration, to proceed despite advice that it was potentially wasteful and prone to corruption.

The government has lost billions of dollars on the subsidy plan, which also cost Thailand its position as the world's leading rice exporter as the government stockpiled the commodity.

National Anti-Corruption Commission chief Panthep Klanarongran said the agency voted unanimously that there were enough grounds to indict her.

"The NACC had submitted letters to warn the defendant twice that the project would create problems and incur great losses, as well as allow corruption to take place throughout every step of the scheme," Commissioner Vicha Mahakun told a news conference. "Yet the defendant did not consider suspending the project as soon as she learned about the country's great losses from running the project."

Yingluck now faces an impeachment vote by the Senate. If impeached and found guilty, she would be barred from politics for five years.

The anti-corruption commission, one of several independent state agencies with powers similar to those of a court, is also looking into possibly filing criminal charges against Yingluck.

The decision Thursday came a day after the Constitutional Court ousted Yingluck and nine Cabinet members for abuse of power over the transfer of the National Security Council chief in 2011 to another position. It ruled that the transfer was carried out to benefit her politically powerful family and, therefore, violated the constitution — an accusation she has denied.

The ruling accomplished what anti-government demonstrators have sought to do for the past six months and further widened the country's sharp political divide.

The leader of the protesters, Suthep Thaugsuban, told his followers that they would stage a "final offensive" on Friday and would achieve their goal of fully ousting the government.

Yingluck's supporters, known as the Red Shirts, have called for a huge rally Saturday to show support for the government, which won a landslide victory in 2011 elections.

The rice subsidy program helped the government win the votes of millions of farmers. It accumulated losses of at least $4.4 billion and has been dogged by corruption allegations. Payments to farmers have also been delayed for many months.