Nearly 1,000 lower-ranking officials in net over rice case
Public sector anti-graft body to come down heavily in over 800 cases of alleged wrongdoing
THE PUBLIC Sector Anti-Corruption Commission will widen the net to implicate a large number of lower-ranking officials found guilty in the Yingluck government's rice-pledging scheme, according to PACC secretary-general Prayong Preeyachit. Deputy Premier Wissanu Krea-ngam also suggested that another 50 to 70 lower-ranking officials were likely to be implicated in the related alleged fake government-to-government (G-to-G) rice-sale contracts executed by ex-commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and five other defendants. According to Prayong, there are more than 800 cases of alleged wrongdoing in the rice-pledging schemeinvolving more than 1,000 lower-ranking officials, including those responsible for rice warehousing and surveying at the Marketing Organisation for Farmers. The previous government purchased more than 10 million tonnes of rice paddy from farmers and stored it at various warehouses in an attempt to boost farmers' income.
Prayong said a subcommittee would be appointed next month to pursue these cases. He said the investigation would be completed in six months. If officials concerned were guilty, the PACC board would forward the cases to public prosecutors for disciplinary action and other measures. Regarding the alleged bogus G-to-G rice-deal case, Wissanu said the investigation should be completed within two months and would lead to disciplinary action and other punitive actions against wrongdoers involved in executing the alleged fake contracts which did not result in export sales of Thai rice to China. This case is related to the bigger rice-pledging scheme case in which ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra has been charged with negligence leading to massive financial damage to the state. Yingluck is also facing a civil liability lawsuit in which she could be hit with a massive compensation bill to cover the losses. The rice-pledging scheme led to losses of Bt510 billion as it allowed farmers to sell an unlimited amount of rice paddy to the government at Bt15,000 per tonne against a market price of only B7,000-Bt8,000 per tonne. An initial estimate shows that the financial damage accountable to former politicians and bureaucrats could be around Bt170-Bt200 billion. In addition, there were alleged fake G-to-G rice-export deals which were sold domestically and as such did not help support domestic rice prices. Chusak Sirinil, head of the Pheu Thai Party's legal team, said the Prayut government's strong actions againstYingluck were unprecedented and politically motivated. He said no other ex-premier had faced criminal and civil liability lawsuits linked to government policies implemented as part of a policy statement delivered to Parliament. According to Chusak, public policies should not be judged on the basis of profit and loss. He said it was also unprecedented that Yingluck's rice-pledging scheme was regarded as an undertaking that caused financial damage to the state. Citing the state officials' civil liability law, Chusak said previous cases such as the multibillion-baht fire engine controversy were not like the rice-pledging scheme since the latter was a policy announced in Parliament. Chusak said the Prayut government should also wait for the final verdict in the criminal cases againstYingluck before filing the civil compensation lawsuits.