World

Friday is judgment day for Thai ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra

BANGKOK Thailand's Shinawatra political dynasty is bracing for another blow in its decade-long power struggle with the kingdom's establishment, as judges decide whether to convict the clan's former premier Yingluck.

The Supreme Court will rule tomorrow if Ms Yingluck is guilty of criminal negligence over a rice subsidy scheme that showered cash on her family's rural political heartland, but was riddled with graft and led to billions in losses.

If convicted, Ms Yingluck, the country's first female PM, could be jailed for up to 10 years - although a sentence may be suspended.

The Shinawatras emerged as a political force in 2001 when her billionaire elder brother Thaksin swept to power. He energised the economy and provided the most extensive pro-poor welfare schemes in Thai history.

But critics accused him of abusing power and blurring the lines between business and politics, becoming as loathed by the Bangkok royalist elite as he was cherished by the rural poor. A coup toppled him in 2006 and the Shinawatras' political fortunes have see-sawed since.

Protests and court cases have hacked at their governments and finances, while another coup toppled Ms Yingluck in 2014.

A guilty verdict for Ms Yingluck would trigger a life ban from politics, taking out a key family member whose star power and adroit public relations stand apart from the dour elderly generals who currently rule Thailand.

She has pleaded innocent to the charges, saying she is the victim of a "subtle political game".

But her enemies say a conviction would be just deserts for a dynasty accused of seeding the kingdom with graft and nepotism.- AFP

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