Thai court asks PM to step down

May 08, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
PM Shinawatra gives a traditional greeting as she leaves the Permanent Secretary of Defence in Bangkok yesterday.

BANGKOK:  A Thai court ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down yesterday after finding her guilty of abusing her power, prolonging a political crisis that has led to violent protests and brought the economy close to recession. 

The decision is bound to anger supporters of Yingluck, but the court did allow ministers not implicated in the case against her to stay in office, a decision that could take some of the sting out of any backlash on the streets.

 Thailand’s protracted political crisis broadly pits Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a 2008 jail sentence for abuse of power.

Yingluck, who faced six months of sometimes deadly protests in the capital, Bangkok, aimed at toppling her government and ending the considerable political influence of her brother, thanked the Thai people in a televised news conference. “Throughout my time as prime minister I have given my all to my work for the benefit of my countrymen. 

I have never committed any unlawful acts as I  have been accused of doing,” Yingluck said, smiling and outwardly upbeat. “From now on, no matter what situation I am in, I will walk on the path of democracy. I am sad that I will not be able to serve you after this.” 

Despite her removal from power, there is no obvious end in sight to the turmoil in Thailand, with protesters opposed to Yingluck and her government still pushing for political reforms before new elections. The judge who delivered the verdict at the Constitutional Court said Yingluck had abused her position by transferring a security chief to another post in 2011 so that a relative could benefit from subsequent job moves.

Yingluck, a businesswoman until entering politics to lead her party to victory in a 2011 election, was not in court yesterday. 

Thaksin, based in Dubai, was unavailable for comment. Financial markets took the ruling in their stride. 

Yingluck’s supporters accuse the Constitutional Court of bias in ruling against governments loyal to Thaksin. In 2008, the court forced two prime ministers linked to Thaksin from office. 

Asked about a vow to resist Yingluck’s removal that had raised fears of violence, Jatuporn replied: “There is no reason why we should take up arms. We will rally peacefully as planned on May 10.” 

In Thailand, the prime minister is normally elected by the lower house of parliament, but that was dissolved in December when Yingluck called a snap election to try to defuse protests.

From that point, she headed a caretaker administration with  limited powers. The election in February was disrupted and later declared void by the Constitutional Court. 

Yingluck and the Election Commission agreed last week a new ballot should be held on July 20, but the date has not been formally approved and it is bound to be opposed by protesters. 

The anti-government protesters say they want to end. Thaksin’s hold over politics and are demanding reform of the electoral system before new polls. 

A leader of the anti-government protesters, who are based in a Bangkok park, welcomed the court’s decision to remove Yingluck but said their campaign would go on. “Of course, there is celebration here today but we still have not completed our goals, which are reforms and a delayed general election,” said Samdin Lertbutr, adding that a big rally planned for May 14 would go ahead.  Ongoing turmoil would make matters worse for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.                  Reuters

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