Ex- poll commissioner Somchai discloses why he rejected Yingluck government’s BAAC’s 20Bn baht loan
A former member of Thailand’s Election Commission, Mr. Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, today (Saturday) posted on his Facebook part of a memoir he wrote in the EC journal about an incident five years ago. It relates to when the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was seeking approval from the EC to borrow about 20 billion baht, from the state-run Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), to pay rice farmers for their crops bought by the government under the rice pledging scheme.
Somchai wrote that, on January 21, 2014, then Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat na Ranong, accompanied by the directors-general of Internal Trade and Foreign Trade departments, held talks with the EC to discuss the government’s plan to secure a loan from the BAAC.
At the time, the government told the media that it was negotiating with the EC to seek approval for the loan which, according to Somchai, put the EC in a dilemma because granting approval would put the EC in the wrong while not approving it would result in the EC being blamed for preventing farmers from getting paid. During the one-hour meeting, Mr. Kittirat assured that the government would pay back the loan in monthly instalments after it received money from the G-to-G rice deal with China.
Somchai said he cited Section 181 (3) of the previous Constitution, which forbids a caretaker government from approving any project or deal which would be binding on the next government, and asked Mr. Kittirat how long it would take for the government to fully repay all 20 billion baht.
Mr. Kittirat turned to the director-general of Foreign Trade Department who said it would take about two years because the department was expected to receive between 1.6-1.8 billion baht a month from the G-to-G rice deal.
Mr. Somchai said he then asked Mr. Kittirat whether the government would be in a caretaker capacity for up to two years and the answer from Mr. Kittirat was “just 2-3 months”. The former election commissioner then told Mr. Kittirat that the EC could not approve the government’s request for the loan, because it was unconstitutional.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Offices sentenced former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom, former foreign trade department chief, several other officials and businessmen to prison terms of 4 to 48 years.
“If the EC had approved the government’s request that day, I would have been fired by virtue of Section 44 of the interim Constitution or might have been one of those imprisoned by the Supreme Court,” wrote Somchai in his memoir.
The Supreme Court’s panel of 9 judges on Friday imposed six additional years on Mr. Boonsong, on top of the 42 years earlier handed down by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Offices.