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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview