Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who fled the country last month, was on Wednesday found guilty of dereliction of duty over a controversial rice subsidy scheme and sentenced to five years in prison in absentia.
Yingluck failed to appear on August 25 as hundreds of her supporters waited outside Thailand’s Supreme Court for the scheduled verdict in the case, CNN reported.
At the time, an official in Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party said she had fled Thailand just before the hearing and was “safe and sound” in Dubai. A warrant was issued for her arrest.
Yingluck faced up to 10 years in prison for her role in the rice-buying scheme, introduced in 2011, which pledged to pay farmers well above the market rate for their crops.
Critics said the programme wasted large amounts of public funds trying to please rural voters, hurting exports and leaving the government with huge stockpiles of rice it couldn’t sell.
Yingluck said the subsidy scheme was “beneficial for the farmers and the country”. She said the claims that the country lost billions of dollars due to the scheme were wrong and motivated by political bias against her.