By Aukkarapon Niyomyat
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Ousted former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra appeared at a Bangkok court on Tuesday for the start of her trial on negligence charges over a multi-billion dollar rice scheme that anti-corruption authorities alleged was plagued with graft.
It is the latest in a slew of cases that have been brought against the former premier, cases her supporters say are part of an attempt by the ruling junta and their establishment allies to tighten their grip on power a year after they toppled Yingluck's government.
Yingluck, who denies the charges against her, faces up to 10 years in prison if she is found guilty. She has accused her enemies of conducting a witch-hunt against her in order to handicap her powerful family.
"I prepared myself well today and am ready to defend myself in court," Yingluck told reporters as she arrived at the Supreme Court in Bangkok. "I hope that I will be awarded justice."
Yingluck was forced from office a year ago in early May 2014 after Thailand's Constitutional Court found her guilty of abuse of power. Weeks later, the military staged a coup that removed the remnants of her government.
The case against Yingluck is just the latest twist in a long-running political saga that includes more than a decade of on-off violence that has pitted supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, himself a former prime minister, against the royalist-military establishment that sees the Shinawatras as a threat and reviles their populist policies.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Seoul on Tuesday, Thaksin said he had no plans to mobilize his "Red Shirt" supporters but called the first year of the junta government which came to power in a coup "not so impressive".
"I think democracy will prevail sooner or later, but we have to be patient, and we have to be peaceful," he said. "Don’t resort to any kind of violence."
Yingluck was banned from politics in January when a military-appointed legislature found her guilty over her role in overseeing the disastrous rice subsidy scheme.
The scheme paid farmers above market prices for their rice and cost state coffers billions of dollars in losses.
(Additional reporting by James Pearson and Sohee Kim in Seoul; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)