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700 Yingluck rice cases gather steam

The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission aims to start its investigation into allegations of state graft under the Yingluck Shinawatra government's rice-pledging scheme this week.

PACC secretary-general Prayong Priyajit said the agency has received 853 complaints of malfeasance perpetrated by officials at the Marketing Organisation for Farmers, the Public Warehouse Organisation and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

By this week, the PACC is likely to order the probe into 500-700 cases, Mr Prayong said.

After the order is made, subcommittees responsible for the investigation will be called for talks so they can work in the same direction, he said.

The PACC is working on the guidelines for the investigation, he said, adding that although these cases are linked to the rice-pledging scheme, the details of them are different.

The investigation into all 853 cases is expected to be wrapped up by the end of this month, he said.

This comes as PACC Region 9 has informed Mr Prayong of irregularities found in a pledged rice storage facility in tambon Tha Chang of Songkhla's Bang Klam district following an inspection on Thursday.

The inspection was jointly carried out by representatives from the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Auditor-General, the Internal Security Operations Command and the PWO.

Pol Lt Col Samart Chainarong, chief of the PACC Region 9, said a contract was made with the PWO to house rice stock, despite the contractor not having possession of any warehouses. The contractor leased a warehouse to store the grain, collecting 500,000 baht every month.

The practice broke regulations and prompted an investigation into the members of a provincial panel responsible for selecting storage facilities for rice. The probe will look into why the contract had been granted.

The investigation will also look into whether firms chosen to fumigate the stock had used quality chemicals and worked in line with procedures to handle the rice stockpile.

Work is also under way to look into related documents to find individuals or agencies that could be held accountable, Pol Lt Col Samart said.

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree meanwhile has played down criticism of the government's move to use the administrative order to call for compensation from the loss-making rice-pledging programmes.

He said the government is trying to create public understanding through the media about the issue, and that the process is in line with the law. Col Winthai also defended the regime's order under Section 44 of the interim charter to give officials immunity from future lawsuits over their handling of rice stockpiles.

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