Thailand's political crisis looks set to enter a new, potentially
turbulent phase as Yingluck faces at least two legal cases that
could see her removed from office in coming weeks, a move that is
likely to jolt her supporters in to action and bring the country
closer, some fear, to civil strife.
"I ask that the Constitutional Court and National Anti-Corruption
Commission use fair treatment when they deliberate the cases against
me. I ask for the same treatment that past political office holders
have received," Yingluck told reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday.
Her supporters have accused the Constitutional Court of bias in
frequently ruling against the government. They also question the
speed with which the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has
pursued her over a failed government rice subsidy scheme. The scheme
has run up huge losses and left hundreds of thousands of farmers
Yingluck has been charged with dereliction of duty in overseeing the
cash-draining scheme that helped bring her to power in 2011 on a
wave of support from rural voters.
Should the commission forward the case to the Senate for possible
impeachment, Yingluck, who is nominally head of the National Rice
Committee, would be suspended from official duties. Any decision
could take weeks.
Yingluck said on Tuesday that her legal team would ask for four
additional witnesses in the rice case. She was given more time by
the NACC to call on three witnesses last week.
Last week the Constitutional Court accepted a new case against
Yingluck over her removal of the national security chief three years
ago. She has been given 15 days to mount a defense.
"It was a simple transfer of a civil servant," Yingluck told
reporters on Tuesday.
"Again, I hope the court will act justly in this case."
Her comments follow a three day rally by pro-government "red shirt"
supporters on the outskirts of Bangkok who vowed to protect Yingluck
against any move that could topple her, raising the political
temperature after months of tumult.
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In their biggest show of strength in months, tens of thousands of
government supporters holding pictures of Yingluck and Thaksin
gathered along a scenic country road over the weekend and said they
were ready to counter any attempt by Yingluck's opponents to remove
Red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan told supporters that the rally was
a "rehearsal for the real fight which will begin after Songkran",
referring to the upcoming Thai New Year holiday.
For five months, anti-government protesters have held noisy street
rallies and disrupted a February 2 general election, that was
nullified by a court in March, in a bid to dislodge Yingluck and to
usher in political reforms before a new general election.
They want to rid the country of the influence of Yingluck's
billionaire brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who
they accuse of rampant corruption and nepotism.
Thailand has been divided along political lines since Thaksin's
ouster. The latest crisis broadly pits anti-government protesters,
made up of middle class Bangkok residents and southern Thais,
against the mostly poorer supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin from
the rural north and northeast.
Twenty-four people have been killed and more than 700 injured since
protests flared up in November.
(Additional reporting by Pilaiporn Promsompan;
editing by Michael
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