The government has instructed the relevant state agencies to expedite civil lawsuits seeking damages from their private contractors accused of theft and embezzlement in connection with the rice-pledging scandal.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam disclosed on Monday that he had issued the order to the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) and the Marketing Organisation for Farmers (MOF), before the statute of limitations on the cases expired between July next year and October next year.
“We [the government] are worried about the statute of limitations. Public prosecutors told us that they would need to deal with a lot of cases, so they don’t want to get a big workload coming at once,” he explained.
He has ordered the two state agencies to submit their cases to public prosecutors within December this year, so that they would have sufficient time for filing lawsuits against those accused.
Wissanu, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said prosecutors would need about six months to look into each case in detail before deciding whether to sue any of the accused.
However, he did not confirm an estimated loss of Bt100 billion to the government in the event of the statute of limitations expiring in these cases.
The deputy PM also maintained that so far, none of the cases had seen its statute of limitations expire.
Many warehouse owners and rice-stock surveyors are accused of involvement in irregularities stemming from the previous government’s corruption-plagued rice-pledging scheme, which was implemented between 2011 and 2014.
Rice bought from farmers under the project and stored at different warehouses disappeared, and people involved face criminal charges of theft and embezzlement.
The PWO and MOF are also planning more than 800 civil cases against them, seeking damages that have yet to be determined in exact amounts by the agencies.