Thailand’s first woman premier Yingluck Shinawatra was on Friday banned from politics for five years and faces criminal charges for negligence that could put in jail for up to 10 years, in a heavy blow to the ousted leader’s powerful family that has ruled the nation for years.
Thailand’s military-appointed legislature today voted to successfully impeach the 47-year-old former Prime Minister, who denounced the decision saying “democracy has died”.
The move could trigger fresh tensions in the politically divided nation that is still under martial law after the military seized power in May last year.
Yingluck was impeached by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) over a controversial rice subsidy scheme, which, though popular, cost billions of dollars and triggered protests that toppled her government.
Under the scheme, the crop was purchased from farmers at around twice the market prices.
The vote, that implies Yingluck will be banned from politics for five years, came hours after the attorney general’s office announced plans to indict her on criminal charges for negligence related to the rice programme.
Yingluck will face criminal charges in the Supreme Court and if found guilty faces up to 10 years in jail, the Attorney General’s Office said.
No date has been set for the formal indictment.
However, the kingdom’s first female premier and sister of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra were swift to denounce the move and vowed to fight the new corruption charges.
“Democracy has died in Thailand today, along with the rule of law. That move to destroy me is still on-going and I face it now,” she said in a Facebook post after plans to hold a press conference were called off on the advice of junta officials.
The impeachment is seen by experts as an attempt to keep the powerful Shinawatra family – whose parties have won every election since 2001 – out of politics.
Yingluck’s supporters have also said the proceedings are part of a wider campaign to end the influence of the Shinawatra clan.
Yingluck has insisted that Thailand’s fragile democracy was under attack from protesters and the army, which staged a coup on May 22 that threw her administration out.
Thaksin was also ousted by the army in a 2006 coup.
Today’s move is the latest in nearly a decade of turbulent politics in Thailand where the royalist-military establishment sees the Shinawatras as a threat and criticise their populist policies.