Legal execution department empowered to act against those breaking civil liability law.
PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha has invoked Article 44 of the interim charter to enable the seizure of assets of those responsible for the rice-pledging scheme.
Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, among others, could have their assets seized over the massive damages.
The Department of Legal Execution has been empowered to seize assets of state officials found guilty of breaking the civil-liability law.
A fact-finding committee appointed by the Prayut government concluded that the previous Yingluck government’s rice-pledging scheme had resulted in losses of more than Bt200 billion in taxpayers’ money.
According to Prayut, the Department of Legal Execution will help enforce the law to ensure that state officials face civil liability lawsuits since the Commerce Ministry has dragged its feet in pursuing the cases against Yingluck and Boonsong.
The deadline for filing the civil-liability lawsuits is February next year.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said other aspects of the justice process in this case remained unchanged.
However, the Commerce Ministry needs help because the estimated losses and value of assets in question are high.
Besides the rice-mortgaging scheme, the 56/2559 order issued by Prayut in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under the interim charter also covers the price-support schemes for cassava and maize.
Wissanu said each of the ministries concerned is supposed to enforce the state officials’ civil liability law.
However, he found that the Commerce Ministry does not have personnel capable of carrying out the task, so it needs help from other agencies such as the Department of Legal Execution, which normally enforces the law after the court delivers its final ruling.
Wissanu said state officials found guilty under the civil-liability law could file an appeal against an executive order to seize assets with the Administrative Court, which has the authority to issue an injunction.
In the event of temporary protection by the court, the assets will not be seized, pending the court’s final ruling. As a result, Prayut’s 56/2559 order under the interim charter has no effect on the judicial process.
“This case serves as a lesson in enforcing the law since there is no specific agency designated for asset seizure.
“If the case is concerned with assets worth Bt10 million-Bt20 million, there is no problem, but the rice-pledging scheme is huge in terms of damages and asset seizures,” he said.
He declined to say if the government is about to issue an order to seize the assets of former commerce minister Boonsong, who is also facing criminal charges for signing fake government-to-government rice sale deals in connection with the rice-pledging scheme.
Prayut’s 56/2559 announcement also provides legal immunity to state officials involved in farm commodity sale schemes for the existing stocks of rice, tapioca and maize, in order to ensure flexible work, accelerate the clearing out of stockpiles and reduce inventory costs.
Kriboon Suadsong, chairman of the Public Warehouse Organisation, said the enforcement of Article 44 should increase working efficiency in releasing the large inventory of farm commodities, whose quality has deteriorated due to prolonged storage.
The government’s inventory includes 340,000 tonnes of cassava, for which the Foreign Trade Department has sought bids from industrial users.
The government is also considering auctioning 94,000 tonnes of maize soon.
The government now has about 8.4 million tonnes of rice in storage.
Keerati Rushchano, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said the cassava sale will cause a loss to the country, as the pledging prices since 2009 have been higher – up to Bt7 a kilogram for cassava chips – but the bids range from 10 satang to about Bt3 per kilogram.