Court rules on PM’s fate

Court rules on PM’s fate

Yingluck downplays family ties in transfer

The Constitutional Court will rule Wednesday on the status of caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a case involving the transfer of Thawil Pliensri as National Security Council secretary-general in 2011.

The prime minister testified calmly to the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, denying all wrongdoing, but she appeared openly worried about her fate at the hands of the judges at noon Wednesday.

Ms Yingluck marked her 1,000th day in office Tuesday, and Wednesday could be her last after just two years, eight months and 27 days as prime minister.

Ms Yingluck is accused in a lawsuit filed by anti-government senators of breaching the charter in her transfer of Mr Thawil, and an unfavourable ruling threatens her future as prime minister as well as that of her entire cabinet.

The charter court will rule on the case around noon Wednesday, after  hearing testimony Tuesday from Ms Yingluck, Mr Thawil, former national police chief Wichean Potephosree and Senator Paiboon Nititawan, leadeer of the senators who brought the case to the Constitutional Court.

The case follows a ruling on March 7 by the Supreme Administrative Court which found that the transfer of Mr Thawil as NSC secretary-general was unlawful and ordered that he be reinstated.

Mr Thawil was moved from the post in September 2011, paving the way for then police chief Pol Gen Wichean to replace him. Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong, a relative of Ms Yingluck, succeeded Pol Gen Wichean as police chief.

The  senators, led by Mr Paiboon. lodged a petition with the charter court seeking a ruling on Ms Yingluck’s status following the Supreme Administrative Court findings.

Mr Paiboon told the charter court Tuesday that Ms Yingluck had abused her authority by transferring Mr Thawil to open the way for Pol Gen Priewpan to become national police chief.

But Ms Yingluck, who was first sworn in as premier with her first cabinet by His Majesty the King on Aug 10, 2011. insisted the transfer complied with the law, saying she did nothing wrong in exercising her administrative authority to transfer the NSC chief.

She said she did not abuse her authority because she was legally authorised to transfer state officials.

Ms Yingluck also noted that the cabinet had nothing to do with the transfer, and insisted she did not stand to benefit personally from the appointment of Pol Gen Priewpan as national police chief.

Pol Gen Priewpan is the brother of Khunying Potjaman, former wife of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Ms Yingluck's brother.

Ms Yingluck argued that Pol Gen Priewpan's appointment was not for the sake of her family because Thaksin had already divorced Khunying Potjaman when the transfer was made.

Mr Thawil told the court his transfer as NSC secretary-general was unlikely to have been for the benefit of the civil service, because Pol Gen Wichean was pressured to quit the post of national police chief to make way for Pol Gen Priewpan.

But Pol Gen Wichean refuted that testimony, telling the court he voluntarily quit as national police chief and his transfer to the post of NSC chief was legal.

Speaking after a party meeting Tuesday, Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the party was concerned about the political ramifications of the charter court ruling. He stressed that when the country is facing a crisis, the court should have role in seeking a way out rather than fuelling the conflict.

Former Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, Somkid Chueakong, said the party believed the court would rule against Ms Yingluck, but believed it would be unlikely to disqualify the entire cabinet.

Pheu Thai legal adviser Kanin Boonsuwan said the charter court should dismiss the case because Mr Thawil has already been formally reinstated as NSC secretary-general.

Thanawuth Vichaidit, spokesman for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said an unfavourable ruling against the government would only invite more red-shirt protests. He said the UDD will stick to its plan for a major rally on May 10 on Utthayan Road to oppose groups which he said are seeking to grab power through unconstitutional means.

Anuwat Tinnraj, a leader of the UDD's chapter in the Northeast, warned that if the court rules to end Ms Yingluck's premiership, his supporters will be mobilised for a major rally in the capital.

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