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Criminal charge recommended against ousted Thai PM

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(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit). In this picture take on May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit). In this picture take on May 7, 2014.
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By THANYARAT DOKSONE
Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) - An anti-corruption body on Thursday recommended criminal charges against Thailand's ousted prime minister over her government's rice subsidy program, which cost the country's billions of dollars.

National Anti-Corruption Commissioner Vicha Mahakun said the commission voted unanimously that former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra committed dereliction of duty for failing to stop the program, a flagship policy of her administration.

"The defendant insisted on continuing the rice subsidy, causing further damages to the state, even though she had the direct authority to stop or cancel the government's rice scheme to prevent more corruption and losses, which is considered the biggest loss to the country," Vicha said.

The commission had already ruled in May that Yingluck was liable for impeachment because her government's rice policy was prone to corruption and massive losses. That decision came one day after she was ousted by a court over alleged abuse of power. The military seized power in a coup later that month.

Vicha said the commission will forward the case to prosecutors next week for indictment by the country's supreme court for political office-holders.

The rice subsidy program, which paid the farmers double the market price, helped Yingluck's government win votes in the 2011 general election, but it accumulated losses of at least $4.4 billion and also cost Thailand its position as the world's leading rice exporter for two years.

Yingluck has not spoken publicly since the coup, but she defended the program while in office as a benefit to the country.

The anti-graft commission, one of several independent state agencies with powers similar to those of a court, is seen as part of the country's conservative establishment, which has removed several governments allied with Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He was ousted by a military coup in 2006.

Junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree said earlier Thursday that the government gave permission for Yingluck to travel overseas for the first time since the military took power. Thai media speculated she and her son will go to France to celebrate the birthday of Thaksin, who fled overseas in 2008 to avoid a corruption conviction. Thaksin turns 65 on July 26.

The junta agreed to Yingluck's request to leave Thailand on a personal trip to Europe from July 20 to Aug. 10 since she "has not violated any orders of the NCPO or any agreements, being the ban from politics or the ban on overseas travels" and "has given good cooperation all along," said junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree.

Yingluck, along with other former Cabinet ministers, were summoned and held briefly by the military after the May 22 coup. Upon their release, the detainees were asked to sign a form saying they will not go abroad without the junta's permission and that they will not engage in any kind of political action.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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