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Former Thailand PM to stand trial

Former Thailand prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will stand trial for negligence related to a rice subsidy programme overseen by her ousted government that lost billions of pounds.

T hailand's most senior court made the announcement in a move likely to deepen the long-running political crisis in the military-ruled nation.

Supreme Court judge Weerapol Tangsuwan said a nine-member judicial panel studied documents submitted by prosecutors from the attorney general's office last month and found the case was within the court's jurisdiction.

The case is expected to begin on May 19.

Yingluck was ousted by a separate court decision shortly before the military staged a coup last May and seized power from her elected government.

The legal proceedings are widely seen as part of a broader attempt to cripple the political machine of Yingluck's brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in another army coup in 2006, and to prevent his allies from returning to power.

Today's announcement came two months after Yingluck was impeached on similar grounds by a military-appointed rubber stamp legislature, which banned her from politics for five years.

Prosecutors from the office of the attorney general had submitted 20 boxes of the case's documents to the Supreme Court's criminal division for political title holders.

They accused Yingluck of dereliction in overseeing the subsidy programme, which temporarily cost Thailand its crown as the world's top rice exporter.

The national anti-corruption commission had earlier recommended the finance ministry sue Yingluck for compensation for damage caused by the rice programme and suggested the amount should be at least 600 billion baht (£12.3 billion).

The rice-buying programme, a flagship policy that helped Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party win elections in 2011, had accumulated losses of at least £3 billion since it was introduced in 2011, as the Thai government stockpiled rice to avoid even bigger losses.

Under the programme, farmers were paid about 50% above what they would get on the world market.

The anti-graft body alleged that Yingluck failed to stop massive losses to state coffers.

I n a post on her Facebook page, Yingluck insisted she was innocent and called on the judiciary to give her a fair trial - unlike past cases she said were "politically intended to destroy me".

The day Yingluck's trial begins has significance in Bangkok.

It marks the fifth anniversary of a bloody army crackdown against demonstrators backing the Shinawatras who had occupied central Bangkok for two months.

More than 90 people were killed in the protests, which ended with the city shrouded with black smoke from burning buildings.

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