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Thai Court Ousts Prime Minister Over Abuse of Power

Many fear that the ouster of Yingluck Shinawatra will be the final spark that sends the country into civil war.
May 7, 2014, 9:40pm
Photo via APEC 2013

After months of turmoil, a Thai court ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, along with several of her cabinet members today.

The Thai Constitutional Court ruled that she abused her power when she transferred a government official to a new post and ordered Yingluck to step down as prime minister.

Yingluck was accused of politically benefiting herself and her party when she transferred her national security chief, Thawil Pliensri, to another post in 2011.

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Yingluck has denied the charges.

"We held true to the principles of honesty in running the country, and never acted corruptly, as we were accused," Yingluck said in a press conference shortly after the decision was made.

Bangkok Rising - Is Thailand on the brink of civil war? Watch our dispatch here.

The remaining cabinet members named Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan as Thailand’s new leader.

This is the latest development in the deepening political crisis that has been unfolding in Thailand over the past several months and the power struggle that has engulfed the country for nearly the past decade.

Many fear that the ouster of Yingluck will be the final spark that sends the country into civil war.

Opponents of Yingluck, termed the Yellow Shirts, began staging mass demonstrations in November of last year to topple her administration.

They accused Yingluck and her government of corruption and abuse of power.

These are the same concerns that led to a military coup ousting Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, from power in 2006 and has locked Thailand in a power struggle ever since.

Thailand prepares for civil war as Bangkok grows more menacing. Read more here.

The pro-government Red Shirts have accused the courts of being biased against Yingluck’s administration and many warn that the ouster of Yingluck will trigger a violent response from them.

These fears are not unfounded. The leader of the Red Shirt movement, Jatuporn Prompan, has vowed to continue to rise up against the Yellow Shirt opposition and threatened civil war.

Thailand’s mass political marches designed to oust Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, spread outside the capital of Bangkok on March 26.

Across Class and Ethnic Lines
The fierce division in Thailand falls along class and ethnic lines.

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Supporters of Yingluck and her brother, the Red Shirts, are mostly concentrated in rural areas of Thailand and fiercely supportive of the government.

The anti-government Yellow Shirts consists mainly of the urban middle class and royalist elite concentrated in the capital.

Other tensions between ethnic groups, such as the Malay-Muslim minority and Lao-speaking Thais in the northeast, add to the fears of renewed separatist violence.

In an attempt to diffuse the protests, Yingluck dissolved her Parliament and called for new elections for February that her party was widely expected to win.

Thailand on the Edge: Watch dispatch one here.

But Thailand’s Constitutional Court annulled the elections after anti-government protesters blocked polling stations in at least one-fifth of the districts, preventing voting from taking place.

New elections are slated for July 20 and it is unclear what results they will yield, if they are held at all.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

Photo via Flickr