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NACC allows 3 witnesses of PM to testify

The National Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday allowed three of 11 defence witnesses to testify against the charge of dereliction of duty by the prime minister in connection with the government's rice-pledging scheme.

The three witnesses were named by NACC member Wicha Mahakhun at a press conference as Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Commerce Minister Nivatthamrong Boonsongpaisal and Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Phuangrach.

Witthaya Akompitak, deputy secretary-general, said the NACC had not specified whether questioning of the witnesses would be completed within a week or two but said it would have to finish its work as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had requested that 11 more witnesses testify on her behalf against allegations that she was negligent in not preventing graft in the loss-making project.

PM's secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva said the defence witnesses would be able to clarify her role in the rice-price-support scheme.

Suranand expressed confidence in the 11 witnesses proposed by the caretaker prime minister, including Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung and deputy PM's secretary-general Thawat Boonfuang.

Both belong to a working group appointed by the prime minister to examine corruption allegations involving the rice-mortgaging scheme, Suranand said.

The government hopes the NACC will allow all 11 witnesses to provide explanations in defence of the prime minister, he said.

"We want to give a complete picture of what the government did [with the rice scheme]. If the NACC deals with this matter in a professional manner, we will be satisfied," he said.

The government is ready to listen to a decision by the NACC on this case, he said.

Yingluck said she was a policy-maker and so she needed government figures who implemented the policy to act as her witnesses.

The prime minister will have to suspend her duties if the NACC resolves to prosecute her.

The NACC also yesterday agreed to pursue impeachment proceedings against former House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranond, who was also the ex officio Parliament president.

The independent organisation found that Somsak should be held responsible for the recent constitutional amendment on the Senate composition, which was ruled unconstitutional by the charter court.


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