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Thai PM faces new dismissal threat in court

AFP , Wednesday 2 Apr 2014
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Thailand's Constitutional Court agreed Wednesday to consider a petition to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office for transferring a top security official -- the latest in a volley of legal challenges by her opponents.

The case was filed by a group of senators who argued that the replacement of then-national security chief Thawil Pliensri after Yingluck was elected in 2011 was for the benefit of her party.

Under the constitution -- drawn up in the wake of a 2006 coup that ousted Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra as premier -- such an offence could lead to her sacking.

Yingluck must present her defence within 15 days of receiving a copy of the petition, according to the ruling.

The Supreme Administrative Court last month ordered Yingluck to reinstate Thawil, saying his transfer was unlawful.

Five months of political street protests have failed to achieve their goal of forcing Yingluck to resign to make way for an unelected interim leader to oversee reforms.

With attendance at the rallies dwindling, Yingluck's opponents have stepped up their legal moves, accusing her family of abusing their political dominance for personal gain.

Yingluck has been charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission with neglect of duty in connection with a flagship rice subsidy scheme that critics say fostered rampant corruption.

If indicted on those charges, Yingluck would be suspended from office and face an impeachment vote in the upper house of parliament that could lead to a five-year ban from politics.

Her opponents applaud the moves against what they see as a corrupt government that uses taxpayers' money to buy the loyalty of rural northern voters through populist policies like the rice initiative.

But Yingluck's "Red Shirt" supporters see the legal threats as part of an attempted power grab through Thailand's courts, which have a history of removing elected governments.

The Red Shirts plan a major rally in Bangkok this weekend to show their support for the government.

The coup that toppled Thaksin ushered in years of political turmoil and bloody street protests by opponents and supporters of the billionaire tycoon-turned-politician, who lives in Dubai to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.

Grenade attacks and shootings linked to the unrest have left 24 people dead and hundreds wounded in recent months, including many demonstrators.

The Constitutional Court last month nullified a February general election disrupted by protesters, leaving the kingdom in legislative limbo with only a caretaker government.

Thaksin-allied parties won every previous election for more than a decade, helped by strong support in the northern half of the kingdom. No date has been set for new polls.

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