Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra ousted over corruption allegations

Asia Correspondent

Thailand is confronting fresh turmoil and uncertainty after a court ordered the country’s prime minister and nine of her top ministers to stand down. It was the third time in seven years the court had forced out a government associated with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The country’s Constitutional Court found Yingluck Shinawatra, a sister of Mr Thaksin and Thailand’s first woman prime minister, guilty of abusing her position when she ordered the transfer of a civil servant three years ago. The order had immediate effect, but the court said the remainder of her government could remain in place in a caretaker role until elections go ahead on 20 July.

Ms Yingluck, who was replaced as premier by the trade minister, Niwatthamrung Boonsongpaisan, a man considered very loyal to the Pheu Thai party leadership, went on national television to insist she had tried her best.

“We held true to the principles of honesty in running the country, and never acted corruptly,” she said.

The decision by the court, long seen as unsympathetic to the Thaksin family, will only exacerbate the political crisis that has beset Thailand since Mr Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006. Since then, two other administrations led by politicians loyal to him have been scuttled by the same court. 

“Basically the court took a decision to sabotage democracy,” Sean Boonpracong, a political analyst and advisor to the government, told The Independent. “She was removed unfairly.”

The court claimed the transfer of a national security advisor in 2011 was carried out improperly and that as a result Ms Yingluck had breached the constitution. “Transferring government officials must be done in accordance with moral principle,” the court said, according to the Associated Press. “Transferring with a hidden agenda is not acceptable.”

Antigovernment protesters celebrate after the Constitutional Court’s ruling (EPA) Antigovernment protesters celebrate after the Constitutional Court’s ruling (EPA)
The decision by the court follows months of protests by anti-government campaigners who have sought to oust Mr Yingluck and her administration. When she last year agreed to stand down and hold a new election, the main opposition party announced it was boycotting the election, rendering it essentially meaningless. The government has accused the protesters of rejecting democracy.

Ms Yingluck, who was first elected in 2011, and her brother have strong support from large swathes of so-called “Red Shirts” mainly located in Thailand’s north and north east and other rural areas. They also have support among working class people within Bangkok.

Those opposed to the Thaksins include Bangkok’s upper middle-class, elements within the army, farmers from the south of Thailand and part of the establishment that surrounds the Thai royal family. Earlier this year, one of the daughters of King Bhumibol Adulyadej posted photographs of herself on social media that were widely interpreted a sign of her support for the anti-government protests.

“What is interesting about the current [development] is the bloodless, legal nature of the approach - using the legal process to take what the coup couldn’t secure, and the polls couldn’t guarantee,” said Dr Liam McCarthy of Nottingham Trent University.

The unanimous decision by the court, announced a day after Ms Yingluck appeared before it to deny the charges against her, raises the prospect of more turmoil for Thailand, where scores of people have died as a result of political violence, and uncertainty as to whether the election on 20 July will proceed. At least 20 people have been killed since November and hundreds more injured

Supporters of Mr Thaksin and his sister are planning to hold a major rally on Saturday. Meanwhile, the leader of the anti-government protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, brought forward his own demonstration and told his supporters to travel to Bangkok for Friday.

“I think there will be a lot of public anger but it remains to see how the Red Shirts will respond,” said Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a Red Shirt who now lives in exile in Britain. “I think there will be more attempts to further undermine democracy.”

Mr Thaksin’s opponents say he is guilty of corruption and that he took decisions that directly helped him and his family. Mr Thaksin is living in exile in Dubai to avoid corruption charges and a plan announced last by the government to introduce an amnesty that would have allowed him to return was the spark for the most recent protests.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - London - £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Wes...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR administrator - London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Office and HR Administrat...

Recruitment Genius: Middleweight Designer

£25000 - £26500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The On-Site division of the UK'...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project