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Thai prime minister ousted in 'judicial coup'

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says goodbye to her supporters on Wednesday, May 7 2014
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says goodbye to her supporters on Wednesday, May 7 2014
(Photo: Sakchai Lalit, AP)

Earlier today, Thailand’s Constitutional Court found Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abuse of power and ousted her from office. Shinawatra bore widespread blame for a failed rice subsidy program that sparked months of riots and demonstrations across the country. The former businesswoman was also accused of maintaining close ties with her exiled brother and predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra.

But neither of these grievances was the reason for her removal. Rather, the court ruled that Shinawatra “acted illegally when she transferred her national security head” because a relative gained from the action. Several cabinet members faced the same fate as Shinawatra when they were also found guilty. This is the third time in six years that a court has removed a Thai prime minister.

"I want to reiterate I have worked with the intention and devotion to serve the people, as they have trusted me and voted for me," Ms. Yingluck said on Wednesday following the ruling. "I administered the country with honesty and I didn't do anything that is dishonest or in violation of the constitution as accused."

Thailand’s cabinet selected deputy premier and commerce minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan to lead the government until a general election can be held. But this is unlikely to appease either the populist Red Shirt party (which supported Shinawatra’s reign) or the antigovernment Democrat party (which sees Boonsongpaisan as a crony of the Shinawatra clan). At the time of the ruling, “the government's supporters had already stated they would view the verdict as a judicial coup,” and Jatuporn Prompan, the leader of this red shirt movement, has even warned of a civil war. Although antigovernment protestors got what they wanted — an abrupt conclusion to Shinawatra’s two and a half year term — there is still “no sense that either side seems willing to make the compromises necessary to move forward.”

Earlier this month, the ruling party called for a July election to replace the prime minister, which the government still plans to see through. Even though the opposition party may boycott the July election as they did the February election, thus rendering it null, standing by the democratic process is Thailand’s best hope for peace and stability. As Boonsongpaisan said, "We have to focus on the general election so that the Thai people can determine their own future.”