2 Thai ex-govt ministers impeached over alleged rice graft

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BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military-appointed legislature voted on Friday to impeach the former commerce minister and his deputy for alleged corruption in a rice deal the nation's graft watchdog said was bogus.

Members of the National Legislative Assembly voted overwhelmingly to impeach former Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and deputy Commerce Minister Poom Sarapol over the charges brought forward by the country's anti-graft commission, which suggested that a government-to-government rice deal that the pair and other government officials oversaw was nonexistent.

The legislature also impeached ex-Department of Foreign Trade director-general Manas Soythong, who was accused with the others of being involved in the bogus deal and reselling the rice to firms with close links to then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

The three are now banned from politics or serving in government offices for five years.

The NLA members, hand-picked by the military junta after it ousted the civilian government in a coup last May, also impeached Yingluck in January for overseeing a government rice subsidy program that lost billions of dollars.

Yingluck and her supporters see the impeachments as part of an effort to curb her and her party's political power. But analysts say it may only end up dividing a nation that has been plagued by political turmoil and coups for the last decade.

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