BANGKOK — Ousted Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra will appear in court today for the start of a lengthy corruption trial that critics say is an attempt by the kingdom's generals to hamstring the popular leader and extend their political dominance.
Yingluck faces up to a decade in jail if convicted on charges linked to her administration's popular but financially costly rice subsidy scheme.
Thailand's first female prime minister was overthrown days before army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in May 2014 amid street protests between rival political factions that have dogged the country for the last decade.
Under the Government rule she has faced a string of legal challenges that her supporters say are politically-motivated, including a vote by the military-appointed legislature to ban her from politics for five years.
That ban and the current trial centred around accusations she failed to stop graft within her administration's rice subsidy program.
It cost the country billions of dollars and was seen by Yingluck's detractors as a populist handout to please her support base in the rural north and north-east.
But Yingluck has defended the policy as an effort to lift rice farmers out of poverty after decades of neglect by Bangkok's wealthy elite. — AFP