A constitutional court sitting in Bangkok Wednesday morning found Thailand’s Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, guilty of allegations of abuse of power and has ordered her to vacate the seat.
The decision of the court is likely to increase tensions in the bitterly divided nation, as supporters of a popular Shinawatra are feared to resume a street protest over the judgement.
Judges said that the Prime Minister had abused her position by transferring the country’s National Security Council chief to another post in 2011 so that a relative could benefit from related job moves.
But in defending herself on Tuesday, Shinawatra told the court that a committee of ministers had made the decision to transfer the security chief and that she had no hand in the decision.
“I did not interfere in the decision process … which should be for the benefit of the land. I deny the allegation… I didn’t violate any laws, I didn’t receive any benefit from the appointment. I have never benefited from any transfer of civil servants,” she said.
The country’s highest court also decreed that all current cabinet members who were serving with her in 2011 must now also leave their posts.
While Shinawatra’s opponents say transferring the civil servant was unconstitutional and an attempt to consolidate power for her Pheu Thai Party, critics have called the court’s decision a staggering overreach by the judicial arm of government.
Leader of Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, had refused to commit his party to upcoming general elections scheduled to hold July 20, and called for the resignation of Shinawatra.
The opposition already boycotted and disrupted an election held in February.
Vejjajiva said the Prime Minister and her caretaker cabinet should step down and make way for an appointed interim administration that would oversee a debate on political reforms; a referendum would then be held on the proposed reforms, with elections held six months later.
The director of research at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs at Chiang Mai University, Paul Chambers, observed that it is not the first time that a Thaksin proxy government has been brought down by the Constitutional Court.
“In 2008, the same body ousted Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej for hosting several episodes of a commercial T.V. cooking show. “This court has a tradition for making ridiculous decisions,” he accused.