05/19/2015, 00.00
THAILAND
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Bangkok, trial begins against Yingluck Shinawatra. Former Prime Minister: I am innocent

The negligence trial of the former prime minister opened this morning. The woman declared herself not guilty. Judges postponed the next hearing to July 21st. From Seoul, her brother Thaksin confident "democracy will win" and urges supporters "to avoid all forms of violence."

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Yingluck Shinawatra has declared herself not guilty at the first hearing in the trial against the former Thai Prime Minister, charged with "negligence" for her role in the controversial rice production subsidy scheme.

The trial opened this morning in Bangkok; if convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison. Before entering the courthouse the former premier turned to the crowd waiting outside, declaring she is ready to prove her innocence in the courts.

According to prosecutors the program, aimed at buying votes, cost the state billions of dollars. The first woman to head a government in the Asian country, Yingluck - sister of former prime minister and billionaire Thaksin, in exile to escape a two-year sentence for corruption - has always strongly rejected all accusations and claimed the trial was politicized.

After the initial statements, the judge suspended the hearing and adjourned the trial to July 21st.

Meeting with reporters outside the court the former prime minister said she "was well prepared " and ready to defend herself. Regarding the trail, she said she was confident and hoped that "justice will be guaranteed." A group of supporters yelled repeatedly "Yingluck fight, fight", risking arrest since the military junta has long banned all political gatherings.

Yingluck’s brother - the controversial Thaksin Shinawatra whom critics say was the real leader of the government led by his sister - has made a rare public appearance in support of his sister.  From his exile in Seoul, South Korea, the former Prime Minister said he was sure that "democracy will win" in Thailand. Commenting on the first year of the junta government, he claimed that "it was not so great" and added that the military should "understand the world, and the mentality of the people who have lived for years in democracy." Finally, the former leader urged supporters to avoid "all forms of violence."

The former prime minister was deposed from office in May following a military coup. The Army's show of force put an end to months of street protests by movements close to the establishment and urban elite: those calling for the resignation of an executive deemed "incompetent and populist."

On January 23, the Parliament voted for the impeachment of the former head of the government and a ban for five years from active politics. This was followed by the opening of a criminal case against Yingluck, for "negligence" and "corruption".

Now the country - at the crossroads in its history, with an issue of succession to the throne - is under the control of the military, with the head of the Armed Forces appointed Prime Minister with the task of reforming the state. However, the Army appear to be ignoring the content of the reform with the risk of a creeping authoritarianism. In fact it was the current prime minister who masterminded and led the bloody repression of 2010, but no member of the armed forces has ever been brought to trial.

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