Thai court orders removal of PM
A THAI court yesterday ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra removed from office, a highly divisive move and a victory for the powerful movement that has sought to overthrow the government in Bangkok for the past six months.
The court ruled that Ms Yingluck abused her power when she transferred a civil servant more than three years ago.
It was the third time since 2006 that a prime minister representing the political movement founded by Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin, was removed by court order.
The court's decision, which highlights its overtly political role, was the coup de grace in a six-month campaign to remove Ms Yingluck from power.
The verdict, which was read out on national television, was reached with unusual speed and was delivered just a day after Ms Yingluck gave evidence in court.
Some legal experts had expected the court to remove her entire government. Instead, it ruled that nine ministers linked to the case should step down but others could remain.
After the ruling, the Cabinet said Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who is also a deputy prime minister, would replace Ms Yingluck, and the caretaker government would press ahead with plans for a July 20 election.
The anti-government movement, which is supported by some of the country's wealthiest families, turned to the courts after unsuccessfully trying to force Ms Yingluck out by shutting down government offices and occupying major intersections in central Bangkok in a protracted political battle that has left Thailand rudderless.
As the anti-government movement cheered the decision to remove Ms Yingluck, independent legal experts despaired over what they described as the crusading role of the courts and the damage to the prestige of the judiciary.
The decision to remove the Prime Minister is "total nonsense in a democratic society", said Ekachai Chainuvati, the deputy dean of the law faculty at Siam University.
"This is what I would call a 'juristocracy' - a system of government governed by judges," Dr Ekachai said.
In one of its most notorious decisions, the Constitutional Court in 2008 removed another prime minister, also from Thaksin's political movement, because he had appeared on a televised cooking show.
Yesterday, the court cited the cooking-show case as precedent for its decision.
The grounds for Ms Yingluck's ouster were that she did not give sufficient justification when, soon after coming to power in 2011, she transferred the secretary-general of the National Security Council, Thawil Pliensri, to another post.
The court said that Ms Yingluck was within her rights to remove Mr Thawil but that the move was rushed, designed to free up a job for a relative of hers and not done according to "moral principles".
The court appeared to overturn its own precedent.
A similar petition against Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister and the current opposition leader, was dismissed in 2011 because Mr Abhisit had already called for elections. Ms Yingluck called elections in December and heads a caretaker administration.
The court has been sensitive to public criticism.
When some Thai news outlets began abbreviating the name of the court with a Thai acronym, TLG, the court put out a statement requesting that the media stop using it. In Thai, the three letters spell the word "funny".