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Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

  • Ron Corben

FILE - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

FILE - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

Thailand's constitutional court has given Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges. The case comes amid continuing uncertainty over when to hold a new election to end the country's bitter political power struggle.

Yingluck faces possible dismissal from office in two verdicts expected within weeks by the constitutional court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Wednesday, the Constitutional Court granted her leave to submit further evidence until May 2, as she faces abuse of power charges.

Prosecutors allege the prime minister illegally transferred former National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri as part of a reorganization of senior security officials. An administrative court has already ruled against the government and ordered Thawil's reappointment.

A constitutional court verdict against Yingluck could require her to stand down as prime minister. The court may also order the Cabinet led by the governing Pheu Thai Party to be dissolved.

Yingluck also faces NACC charges of negligence in her role as chair of a national rice program committee.


Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn, a former government spokesman under the Democrat Party, says the prime minister is politically compromised.

"The tipping point of the situation is of course the verdict of the court this month or next regarding Khun Yingluck," he said. "But there are many more cases against her, so her leadership in political terms is over already. It is a matter of time. But the trouble is can [the governing] Pheu Thai [Party] find a new leadership without any election to continue their power? If they cannot the whole thing would collapse for them."

Anti-government protestors derailed national elections on February 2 by stopping registration of some candidates and some ballots. The constitutional court later annulled the vote.

Yingluck continues to preside over a caretaker administration, but it lacks the mandate to pass a national budget and has other constitutional curbs on its power.

This week the election commission held talks with up to 60 political parties in an effort to re-establish parliamentary democracy.

The current political crisis has led to more than 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Mahidol University lecturer Gotham Areeya says there are fears of more clashes unless Thailand successfully moves ahead with new elections.

"We do not have much time now. I would pay more attention to the fact that yesterday seemingly the Election Commission may decide to decide to organize the general election within 60 to 90 days," Areeya said. "In that case the clock will start ticking again and the time for negotiation is becoming shorter if we don't do anything of that sort. So we may head for confrontation.”

Analysts say both sides have to negotiate to reconstitute parliament and government amid fears of the longer term economic impact from the economic and political uncertainty.

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