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Thailand Begins Impeachment Proceedings Against Former PM

Ousted former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra sits in her car as she leaves Parliament after delivering her statement to the National Legislative Assembly meeting in Bangkok, January 9, 2015.

Thailand's parliament has begun an impeachment hearing against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in connection with a rice subsidy program that has cost the country billions of dollars.

In her opening statement Friday to the military-stacked National Legislative Assembly, Yingluck denied all allegations against her.

The impeachment move was triggered when the National Anti-Corruption Commission accused her of abuse of power in May. A court removed her from office and shortly afterward the military took over the country in a coup and declared martial law.

A conviction could automatically ban Yingluck from politics for five years, but could also trigger a backlash from her rural supporters, called "Red Shirts." Protests in Bangkok in 2010 left at least 90 people dead and hundreds injured.

Analysts say the proceedings are a political ploy by urban royalists to weaken the influence of the Shinawatra family in politics. Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was removed as prime minister in a 2006 coup and lives in self-exile to avoid a 2008 graft conviction, but remains hugely influential.