Political tensions in Thailand rose as former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra pleaded not guilty to charges she failed to act to prevent billions of dollars in losses from a botched rice-subsidy program.
The trial began Tuesday, a few days before the first anniversary of the coup d’état that threw out her government and brought the ruling junta to power.
Security was tight outside the Supreme Court, where the hearings are taking place, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Dozens of Yingluck’s supporters gathered there in the early morning, many chanting “Fight! Fight!”
If found guilty, Yingluck could face up to 10 years in prison.
That could further widen the political division in Thailand since her brother, billionaire businessman Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted in an earlier coup in 2006.
Yingluck launched her rice policy in 2011 after a landslide election victory.
Rice was bought from farmers at up to double the prevailing market prices.
Yingluck has defended it as a way to transfer wealth to the countryside and boost rural incomes.
Critics, though, viewed it as an extreme extension of the populist vote-winning policies pioneered by Thaksin, who now lives in exile to avoid imprisonment on a corruption conviction.
When Yingluck’s stockpiling operation failed in its goal of steering global prices higher, Thailand was left with mountains of rice that it couldn’t sell except at a steep loss.
That helped fuel the middle-class protests against the government that helped pave the way for the coup in May last year.
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