• Monday, July 28, 2014

Grenade thrown at home of Thai judge

AP, Bangkok
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra talks to media during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, May 7. Photo: AP
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra talks to media during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, May 7. Photo: AP

A grenade was thrown at the home of a judge on Thailand's Constitutional Court that a day earlier had ousted the country's prime minister for abuse of power, police said Thursday.

Police Col Kamthorn Auicharoen said that there were no casualties and that the attackers were trying to instigate a situation to further deepen the political conflict. The headquarters of Thailand's major commercial bank and a scientific research facility were also damaged by similar grenades overnight.

The court on Wednesday found Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abusing her power by transferring the National Security Council chief in 2011 to another position. It ruled that the transfer was carried out to benefit her politically powerful family and, therefore, violated the constitution - an accusation she has denied.

The ruling accomplished what anti-government demonstrators have sought to do for the past six months and further widening the country's sharp political divide.

Supporters of deposed Yingluck have called for a huge rally Saturday to protest the ruling by the Constitutional Court, which exercised powers laid out in a constitution written by a military government after a coup in 2006.

The leader of the anti-government protesters, Suthep Thaugsuban, meanwhile, told his followers that they would stage a "final offensive" on Friday and would achieve their goal of fully ousting the government.

The court found Yingluck guilty of abusing her power by transferring the National Security Council chief in 2011 to another position. It ruled that the transfer was carried out to benefit her politically powerful family and, therefore, violated the constitution - an accusation she has denied.

The ruling forced out nine Cabinet members but left nearly two dozen others in their posts, including Deputy Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, who was appointed the new acting leader.

Yingluck appeared on television two hours after the verdict to thank her supporters, emphasize that she was an elected leader and assert her innocence.

"We held true to the principles of honesty in running the country, and never acted corruptly, as we were accused," said Yingluck, 46, who swept to power nearly three years ago as the country's first female prime minister.

During the past six months, Yingluck's supporters, the Red Shirts, have generally steered clear of provoking her opponents, who have been blocking government ministries and conducting street protests in the capital. Still, more than 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured since November in sporadic gunbattles, drive-by shootings and grenade attacks.

Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said Saturday's rally will be a show of strength, but that further attempts to dislodge the government will be met with force.

"Our stance has been clear," he said. "If an illegal prime minister steps in, we will fight. If there's a coup, we will fight."

Thailand's long-running political crisis began in 2006 when Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by a military coup after protests that accused him of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

A military government after the coup rewrote the constitution, giving extensive powers to the courts and to agencies outside the Cabinet's authority in an attempt to reduce executive and legislative power.

Thailand's courts, like its military, are seen as bastions of anti-Thaksin conservatism, and have a record of hostile rulings toward Thaksin's political machine, which is fueled by billions of dollars that he made as a telecommunications tycoon.

Analysts said Wednesday's ruling further sullied the courts' reputation.

"The credibility of the justice system has vaporized," said Thongchai Winichakul, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin. "The royalist conservatives may celebrate this judicial coup. But the world will mourn over the death of another democracy."

Yingluck is despised by Bangkok's elite and middle class as a puppet of her brother. But she and her Pheu Thai party remain highly popular among the country's poor majority, particularly in the north and northeast.

Her opponents have been demanding that she step down to make way for an interim unelected government that would remove her family's influence from politics.

Wednesday's ruling casts doubts on whether new elections planned for July will be held, following polls in February that were disrupted by the protesters and then invalidated by the court.

In 2007, the Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling dissolving Thaksin's original Thai Rak Thai party for fraud in a 2006 election, and banned its executives from politics for five years. Thaksin went into self-imposed exile in 2008 to escape a two-year jail sentence for conflict of interest while prime minister.

Thaksin's allies in late 2007 handily won the first post-coup election, but the Constitutional Court in 2008 kicked out two successive pro-Thaksin prime ministers in rulings on controversial legal grounds.

Published: 11:54 am Thursday, May 08, 2014

Last modified: 10:50 pm Thursday, May 08, 2014

TAGS: Yingluck Shinawatra Grenade Constitutional Court Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan

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