Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been summoned to face an anti-corruption panel to hear negligence charges that could lead to her removal from office.
The charges relate to a rice subsidy scheme that paid farmers above the market price and has run out of funds.
Farmers, normally the prime minister's biggest supporters, are demanding immediate payment for the rice they have sold to the state.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission says Ms Yingluck ignored warnings that the rice scheme was fostering corruption and causing financial losses.
Ms Yingluck, who has protested her innocence, was a no-show at Thursday's hearing, sending her legal team instead.
If found guilty she could face a five-year ban from politics.
It is unclear how long the commission will take to reach a conclusion.
If the panel decides that Ms Yingluck is guilty, the case will be referred to the partially elected upper house of parliament for an impeachment vote.
On Wednesday, the premier flew to her political stronghold in northern Thailand where she is expected to spend several days inspecting government-backed projects.
Anti-government protesters have occupied parts of the capital, Bangkok, since November.
They want Ms Yingluck to step aside in favour of an unelected "people's council" to tackle what they see as corruption and a culture of money-driven politics.
A wave of political violence, often targeting protesters, has left 22 people dead and hundreds wounded, with almost daily reports of gunshots and grenade blasts in Bangkok recently.
The demonstrators accuse Ms Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra - a billionaire tycoon-turned-premier who was ousted from office by royalist generals in 2006 - of running the government from overseas, where he lives to avoid a jail term for corruption.
Critics say the subsidy scheme has encouraged corruption, drained the public coffers and left the country with a mountain of unsold stock.
But government supporters see the charges as part of an attempted "judicial coup" by Mr Thaksin's opponents within the royalist establishment.