Former Thai PM returns home as legal threat lingers
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has returned home from a trip overseas, putting an end to speculation she would stay away from Thailand as prosecutors decide whether to indict her for mismanaging a state rice-buying scheme.
Yingluck arrived at Bangkok's Don Muang airport close to midnight on Sunday, her aide, Wim Roongwattanajinda, told Reuters, adding that her lawyers were ready to fight the case.
Yingluck was forced by a court to step down on May 7 for abusing her power by transferring a top state official. The military ousted her government in a coup on May 22.
She faces jail and a political ban if the rice case goes to court and she is convicted of dereliction of duty.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) says the rice-buying scheme, the flagship policy that brought her to power in 2011, had incurred billions of dollars in losses that she failed to stem. She has rejected the allegations.
The scheme effectively priced Thai rice out of the export market and Yingluck's government found few buyers for the millions of tonnes that ended up in state stockpiles.
The NACC last week filed its findings to the attorney general and recommended Yingluck's indictment. Prosecutors are expected to decide whether to pursue the case within 30 days.
Yingluck was granted permission by the military junta to go to Europe to attend the birthday party of her influential brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has lived in self-exile since 2008 to avoid jail time for graft.
She left Thailand on July 23 saying she would be back in August.
Yingluck's fortunes have been similar to those of her billionaire brother.
Both led populist governments toppled in coups, despite being elected in landslides, and both were subjected to legal action and street protests by pro-establishment activists.
She and numerous political allies were briefly detained after the military overthrew what was left of her government in May.
The junta remains in charge of Thailand until a military dominated parliament that it set up last week chooses a prime minister and cabinet to rule until elections, which are expected at the end of next year.
(Reporting by Viparat Jantraprap; and Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Martin Petty and Robert Birsel)
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