Thailand’s first female prime minister on Sunday told the man who ousted her government two years ago to investigate his own brother over corruption allegations, in an unusually strong broadside against the junta.
Yingluck Shinawatra was booted from office shortly before army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in May 2014, the military’s second coup in less than a decade and their twelfth successful power grab since 1932.
Since then she has been hit with a series of junta-led prosecutions including a retroactive impeachment, an ongoing criminal negligence trial that could see her jailed for up to a decade and a separate move to seize more than $1 billion in civil damages.
The last two legal cases stem from a popular but financially costly rice subsidy scheme that Yingluck’s government pushed.
“The Prime Minister (Prayut) says that all the legal actions against me are based on the law and are not bullying,” Yingluck wrote on her Facebook account on Sunday.
“I would like the Prime Minister to apply the same logic and justice given to me like he gives justice and protection to his brother and other people who are on his side. Because the laws should be enforced for everyone, not just used only against my side.”
Yingluck’s comments were a direct reference to new corruption allegations that have surfaced this month against Prime Minister Prayut’s brother Preecha Chan-O-Cha, who is also a senior army general.
Local media said one of Preecha’s sons had won a series of lucrative construction contracts from Thailand’s Third Army, which Preecha used to command.
Preecha insisted his son won the contracts in a fair tender process and denied any wrongdoing.
But it is not the first time the junta chief’s brother has had to deny negative headlines.
Earlier this year he admitted helping another son land a well-paid officer’s job in the military.
And when the junta ordered senior officials to reveal their wealth — part of a post-coup attempt at transparency — Preecha had $1.2 million in his bank account — money he said was military assets he was looking after and not his own personal wealth.
Such headlines have stung Prayut, who has defended his coup as necessary to root out political corruption and end years of instability between competing factions.
However critics say his regime has been selective in graft prosecutions, with the main aim being to rid the country of the Shinawatra political clan.
Yingluck’s billionaire brother Thaksin was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup.
The Shinawatras have won all general elections since 2001 by promising greater wealth and opportunity to the nation’s poor, especially in the long-neglected north and northeast.
But their parties were loathed by a Bangkok elite and by southern voters — backed by the military establishment — who accused them of corruption and nepotism.
Prime Minister Prayut appeared to distance himself from his brother in comments on Sunday after returning from New York, the first time he has addressed the issue in detail.
“A brother is a brother, it’s not the same as me,” he said. “He is not stupid. But I do not make a guarantee for him because it is his responsibility.”