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Thailand ex-PM Yingluck pleads not guilty

Former Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra has filed a not guilty plea on her first day in court on negligence charges. The scandal has put the poor rural supporters against the royalist elite.

With supporters outside the courtroom chanting "Yingluck! Yingluck!," defying a ban on gatherings of more than five people, Thailand's former prime minister entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday as she

appeared in court for the first time

to face charges that could see her jailed for a decade.

Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's first female prime minister, is

accused of dereliction of duty

relating to a controversial rice subsidy program which saw the government paying, in some cases, over half the market value of rice to the farmers and losing Thailand its crown as the world's leading exporter of the grain.

Her supporters say it is part of a politically motivated campaign to discredit her family. Yingluck is the sister of another former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid facing corruption charges. Critics of the family say the Shinawatras used their power for personal gain and cronyism.

'You have to observe the rule of law'

Speaking at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea, Thaksin Shinawatra told Asian governments that "you have to observe the rule of law, which is a very important asset for each country to be credible."

Thaksin's comments on Tuesday were rare for the telecoms tycoon turned premier, who has kept a low profile since

a military coup topped the government

in May of last year, just weeks after his sister was removed from power by the Thai courts.

The affair is seen as a conflict between the Bangkok elite and their royalists and military supporters to the south, and the impoverished in the north who support the Shinawatras.

"In every country there [are] two different societies, always: the rich and the poor, those who have opportunities and [those with] less opportunities," Thaksin said in his talk, careful not to specifically reference Thailand, "we need to eradicate poverty, especially in emerging countries in order to let people choose the good politicians and keep a good democracy."

After entering her plea, Yingluck posted bail of 30 million baht or $900,000 (796,000 euros) and was banned from travelling outside of Thailand for the duration of her trial.

The next hearing is schedule for July 21.

es/kms (AP, AFP)

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