Thai ex-prime minister vows to fight negligence charge

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BANGKOK (AP) — Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose bank accounts were frozen this week, says she will fight to prove her innocence as a trial that could put her in prison for 10 years enters its final stages.

Yingluck was ousted as prime minister in 2014 when a court ruled that a personnel transfer involved nepotism. The action against her, widely considered politically motivated, came shortly before the army ousted her government in a coup.

A court on Aug. 25 is to issue a verdict on whether she was criminally negligent as prime minister in implementing a rice subsidy policy which allegedly caused the government billions of dollars in losses. An administrative ruling holding her responsible for about $1 billion of the losses led to her accounts being frozen. Her assets were listed in a statutory declaration in 2015 as being worth 611 million baht ($18 million) in total.

She is to give her closing statement to the court on Aug. 1.

Yingluck has also been banned from political office for five years after the national assembly appointed by the military government impeached her.

Her supporters believe she is being persecuted by the army and by other political opponents of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, a telecommunications mogul, was ousted in a separate 2006 military coup after demonstrations accused him of corruption, abuse of power and insulting the then-monarch, late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thaksin's ouster set off sometimes-violent battles for power between his supporters and opponents, including the military. He has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape a prison sentence on a corruption charge. His supporters say the country's political establishment opposes him because his electoral popularity threatens their entrenched privileges.

"The government has chosen to exploit its power to freeze my assets without waiting for the Administrative Court's ruling. The timing of their decision comes a few weeks before the Supreme Court's verdict on the Rice Subsidy Scheme case. It seems to me that this is a desperate attempt by the government to do everything that it can to influence the case prior to the final verdict," Yingluck wrote in a statement posted Tuesday on her Facebook page. She said she filed a petition challenging the freezing of her accounts.

"I will stay strong and I will continue to prove my innocence to the best of my ability in the closing statements this coming Aug. 1, 2017, because I know that I have done nothing wrong," she wrote. "I will look to the moral support from all of you as it will give me the much-needed strength and patience to fight on."

Last Friday, Yingluck was greeted by almost 1,000 supporters at the most recent hearing of her case at the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup that toppled her elected government, warned her supporters Tuesday to tread carefully.

"The court and judicial process are looking at it, you cannot be offensive or speak ill of the courts. I'm telling you," he said. "The government will not prevent people from going, but everyone must show restraint and ask themselves, 'Why am I going, what will I get out of this?'"

"Whether there are lots of people or just a few people that go, or if a situation arises, it would not make a difference in the verdict. Then why would you go? Let the court decide," Prayuth said.

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