Embattled Thai PM testifies in abuse of power case

If Shinawatra is forced to step down, legal experts say her entire government would have to go too. Photo: Reuters
Thailand\’s besieged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday denied an abuse of power allegation at the nation\’s Constitutional Court in a legal challenge which could see her removed from office.
The premier denied the complaint, filed by a group of senators, who said that the replacement of then-national security chief Thawil Pliensri after she was elected in 2011 was for the benefit of her party.
The prime minister told the court her actions had been for the good of the country, and that the relative was no longer married in to the family at the time of his appointment.
"I deny the allegation… I didn\’t violate any laws, I didn\’t receive any benefit from the appointment," a composed Yingluck told the court, adding she replaced Thawil for the benefit of the country.
The charges relate to the 2011 replacement of her then national security chief, a move her critics said was unconstitutional and meant to benefit her Pheu Thai Party.
If found guilty, Prime Minister Yingluck could be removed from office, along with some top government officials. She also faces a ban from politics. No date has been given for a verdict.
Separately, Thailand\’s Anti-Corruption Commission has charged Ms. Yingluck with dereliction of duty over a government rice-buying scheme that critics say is wasteful and corrupt. 
The prime minister has survived months of protests aimed at toppling her government, but the court cases now present a new challenge to her rule. 
If the courts remove the prime minister from office, her supporters have threatened to take to the streets, raising fresh concerns about violence. 
Dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed during clashes with police and attacks on demonstrations in the past several months. 
The opposition protesters say  Yingluck\’s government is hopelessly corrupt and controlled by her brother, ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin was removed from office in a 2006 military coup. The billionaire businessman is still very influential in Thailand. He is living in exile to escape corruption charges.
Yingluck already called for early elections in February, but the opposition boycotted the vote and disrupted it in many provinces with protests.
Last week, the prime minister and the election commission agreed to hold another election on July 20, but it is unclear if the opposition will participate this time.
Anti-government protests, which began in November, form part of a long-running crisis that broadly pits Bangkok\’s middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Shinawatra and her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin.
Shinawatra\’s Puea Thai Party and leaders of the anti-government movement have rejected proposals by opposition leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to delay a general election planned for July for six months.
Source: Agencies
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