Thailand's deposed premier Yingluck Shinawatra faces a possible five-year ban from politics after anti-graft officials ruled yesterday that she should face impeachment proceedings, a move sure to further enrage her supporters.
But the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) said it would not extend its probe into a costly rice subsidy scheme to the rest of the caretaker cabinet as feared by officials of the battered ruling party.
That could have seen the cabinet ousted and sent the kingdom spinning into a deeper political crisis.
"The commission considers there is enough evidence to indict (Yingluck) and refers (the case) to the Senate," Panthep Klanarongran, chief of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) told reporters.
If found guilty by the upper house Yingluck could face a five-year ban from politics.
The NACC said it is still considering whether Yingluck should face criminal charges, which could see her given a jail term.
Her billionaire elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, lives overseas to avoid a prison sentence for corruption that he contends was politically motivated in the wake of his ousting by an army coup in 2006.
Thailand remains stuck in a political quagmire with the ailing government staggering on despite a slew of legal challenges and protests on Bangkok's streets.
Anti-government protesters, who accuse the Shinawatras of poisoning Thailand with corruption, said they would appoint a new government today-- a move that would risk further political violence.
The protesters are known for their hyperbolic statements and it was not immediately clear what legal basis their vow was based on.
But Thai experts say the Thai constitution has an article that may enable the appointment of a new executive body by the Senate.
The appointment of a new premier by the anti-government group "is the red line not to be crossed," said Thailand-based author and academic David Streckfuss.
"The Red Shirts will rise en masse," he said referring to Shinawatra supporters who are due to hold a mass rally on Saturday in a Bangkok suburb.
The NACC's decision comes a day after the Constitutional Court removed Yingluck from office for abusing her power in the 2011 transfer of a security official.
The ruling Puea Thai party swiftly appointed a deputy premier and commerce minister -- Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan -- as Yingluck's replacement and vowed to push for new elections on July 20 to cut a path through the turmoil.
Yingluck was intially accused of negligence linked to the rice scheme, which paid farmers above market rates for their crop and became a lightning rod for anger from her political foes.They allege the scheme drained Thai finances, damaged the country's rice producing industry and fostered massive corruption -- all to shore up the Shinawatra's electoral base.
Anti-government protesters want an appointed "People's Council" to implement loosely-defined reforms aimed at eradicating Thaksin's influence on Thai politics.
At least 25 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in political violence since they flooded Bangkok's streets and there are fears of wider clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters as the crisis snowballs.
Red Shirt chairman Jatuporn Prompan earlier accused the court and NACC of "teamwork" with the anti-government protesters in an attempt to pincer the ruling party . Warning of an imminent military coup, he urged Red Shirts to join a major rally tomorrow.