Why Is Yingluck Shinawatra Being Impeached By Thailand’s Military Junta?

Yingluck Shinawatra might have thought the worst had already come when she was thrown out of the Thai prime minister slot in May last year, but Thailand’s military government is now pressing the former prime minister even harder.

The junta — who have been in power since overthrowing Yingluck’s successor weeks after her departure — have voted to permanently ban Shinawatra from politics. Not only have they blocked the possibility of Yingluck leading the country again, but they are also holding another ominous sentence over her head: 10 years behind bars in a Thai jail, reported the Guardian.

The charges most commonly slated again Shinawatra by the current government relate to a government program that sought to make rice workers and the country rich by taking a calculated risk with supply and demand. Instead they ended up with an out-of-control program that has been estimated to account for as much as 8 percent of the Thai national budget, reported Time.

“The plan was simple: Thailand’s government would buy rice from local farmers at a generous price, some 50 percent above the market rates. It would hold the rice in warehouses, cutting off exports to the rest of the world. The sudden shortage from the world’s heavyweight champion of rice exports would cause a spike in global prices. Then, payday for the government as it swung open the warehouse doors and sold its stockpile to the world at a premium. Farmers win, the government wins, foreign consumers lose, but then they don’t vote in Thai elections, so what do they matter? The plan was a political no-brainer, except for one problem: Thailand’s government underestimated how quickly the market can kick back at any would-be puppeteers.”

Instead of grasping for Thai rice, most countries simply switched to another vendor — especially easy considering India had heavily globalized its exports at the same time. That was bad news for Yingluck, but her family’s legacy has still made her a difficult figure to take down. Shinawatras have been leading Thailand since 2001. Though the Thai people would be likely to re-elect Yingluck, her opposition has used the court system to wage their attack, sometimes in a rather creative fashion: They still haven’t explained how a deposed prime minister like Shinawatra can face impeachment, reported the New York Times. Yingluck, however, maintains that her intentions with the rice program were honorable.

“Many governments have public policies to help farmers… It’s the government’s duty to look after them… I was reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, reducing social disparity.”

All political activity in Thailand has been banned under the military junta, possibly accounting for a lack of many protests following the Yingluck Shinawatra impeachment. The current government maintains that they will allow elections for a new prime minister in February 2016, reported the Guardian.

[Image via Flickr]