Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thailand: Constitutional Court to Rule May 7 on Decision to Potentially Oust Prime Minister

According to Reuters, Thailand's Constitutional Court is almost certain to rule against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46, on abuse of power charges on Wednesday (May 7), forcing her from office and raising the possibility of fresh mass protests by her supporters.

Presumably, that could lead to confrontation with anti-government groups which have been protesting in the capital of Bangkok for six months in a bid to topple the embattled PM.

The crisis broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, who was ousted by the military in 2006 and now lives in exile to avoid a jail term handed down in 2008 for abuse of power.

Yingluck defended herself in court on Tuesday (May 6) against a charge relating to her transfer of National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri in 2011, which opponents say was designed to benefit the PM's Puea Thai Party.

COMMENT: All in all, the Thai people have been confronting political unrest, largely due to a former PM who was ousted by the military in 2006 and used his younger sister, Yingluck, as a surrogate PM to further his goals, including the failed rice subsidy that her government reneged on.

Yingluck has led a caretaker administration with limited powers since dissolving Parliament in December 2013 ahead of the election. Her party says another interim prime minister can be chosen from among her five deputies.

Yingluck's ousting would be a new boost in tension in nearly a decade of confrontation between supporters of Thaksin and the Bangkok-based royalist establishment who see Thaksin, a former telecom tycoon, as a threat to their interests and accuse him of corruption and nepotism.

Yingluck also faces a charge of dereliction of duty over a state rice-buying scheme that critics say is riddled with corruption and has run up huge losses for the government.

This charge was brought by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is expected to deliver its ruling this month. A guilty verdict here would also force Yingluck from office and she could in addition get a five-year ban from politics.

This report will be updated on Wednesday (May 7).