Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from office after the Constitutional Court ruled she abused her position by transferring a top security official, deepening the nation’s political crisis. Yingluck, 46, “violated the constitution,” Judge Udomsak Nitimontree said today in a nationally-televised ruling. She transferred the secretary-general of the National Security Council in 2011 in a process that “indicates an abuse of power,” the judge said. The nine judges in their unanimous decision invalidated Yingluck’s ministerial status, creating doubt about her caretaker government’s ability to continue until an election the Election Commission has agreed to hold July 20. The verdict risks prolonging a crisis that began with anti-government protests last October and has its roots in the removal of Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in a 2006 coup.
The ruling could prompt a backlash from Yingluck’s mainly rural supporters called the Red Shirts, with leaders across the political spectrum, as well as the army chief, warning a politically-divided Thailand is at risk of civil war. Political violence has killed at least 25 people in the past eight months.
Yingluck has not made any statement on the court order. The ruling is a coordinated attempt to “destroy” her ruling Pheu Thai Party, deputy party leader Phokin Palakul said at a briefing carried on local television. “We urge people who love democracy to express their opposition to the ruling in peaceful ways,” he said. Continuing with the July vote is “a way to end the political crisis in a democratic way.”