The Constitutional Court in Thailand ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Wednesday, along with nine members of her cabinet, in an abuse-of-power case that will likely push the politically fragile democracy into further turmoil and violence.
Thailand's highest court cited a relatively obscure case involving the transfer of a senior civil servant three years ago, which had a "hidden agenda" that allowed Yingluck to help a relative become police chief. The court said in its ruling, which was broadcast on national television for over an hour, that “Transferring government officials must be done in accordance with moral principle."
The decision handed down by the court was final and immediate, and it removed all cabinet members who held posts at the time of the illegal personnel decision. The ten individuals whose caretaker status has ended include Yingluck, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Chalerm Yubamrung, Kittiratt Na-Ranong, Santi Prompat, Anudith Nakornthap, Siriwat Kachornprasart, Pracha Promnok, Yutthasak Sasriprapa and Plodprasop Suraswadi.
The remaining cabinet members swiftly appointed Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan as acting prime minister. After the ruling, Yingluck, 46, denied the abuse-of-power allegation, and said her administration “never acted corruptly.”
Over the past six months, urban political protesters have taken to the streets in Bangkok, rallying against Shinawatra's administration, in contrast to rural citizens, who were generally in favor of the ousted prime minister. This divide between rural and urban voters has persisted for roughly a decade, since Yingluck's older brother Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted as Thailand's first populist leader during a military coup in 2006.
Ousted Yingluck: Thank you for your support. I had worked with honesty and no vested interest. pic.twitter.com/PUWXUOVUCn
— The Nation Thailand (@nationnews) May 7, 2014
Since 2006, a pattern has emerged in which Thaksin-backing voters put members of that party into office, and then Thai courts summarily remove them.
Image via Wikimedia Commons