[JURIST] The Thai Constitutional Court [official website, in english] on Tuesday ordered caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] to step down for an alleged abuse of power relating to the transfer of a senior civil servant to another position in the government that occurred shortly after she took office in 2011. The decision also removed [WSJ report] several other cabinet members from their positions. The government going forward will headed by Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, an associate of Shinawatra’s, until new elections can be held. Shinawatra’s political party, Pheu Thai, reportedly issued a statement denouncing the decision [Guardian report], calling it a “virtual coup,” designed to remove a democratically elected government. The former prime minister has denied all allegations of wrongdoing, and the offense she was charged with was not technically illegal, rather the court found that she had acted too quickly and without “moral principles.” The decision has exacerbated fears over Thailand’s political situation, prompting increased worry that supporters of Shinawatra could respond with increased protests that may lead to further violence.
Shinawatra’s administration has been under heavy pressure both from protesters demanding her removal from office and from multiple court battles relating to various alleged instances of misfeasance. The Constitutional Court announced [JURIST report] it would hear the current case last month after two lower courts had found Shinawatra’s actions unlawful and ordered the reinstatement of the civil servant removed from office. In February Shinawatra was also accused [JURIST report] of neglect of duty relating to her administration’s management of a multi-billion dollar rice subsidy program, allegedly ignoring multiple reports of corruption in how the subsidies were allocated. Political protests between Shinawatra’s supporters and detractors have been extremely volatile, prompting the government to declare [JURIST report] a state of emergency in January after escalating violence between protesters and police.