That could lead to confrontation with anti-government groups which
have been protesting in the capital, Bangkok, for six months in a
bid to topple Yingluck. Those demonstrations disrupted a general
election in February that she had been expected to win.
The crisis broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist
establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck
and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by
the military in 2006 and now lives in exile to avoid a jail term
handed down in 2008 for abuse of power.
Yingluck's supporters accuse the court, which said it would issue
its decision on Wednesday, of bias in frequently ruling against the
In 2008, the court forced two Thaksin-linked prime ministers from
office. A similar ruling against Yingluck is expected on Wednesday.
Yingluck defended herself in court on Tuesday against a charge
relating to her transfer of National Security Council chief Thawil
Pliensri in 2011, which opponents say was designed to benefit her
Puea Thai Party and a family member.
Yingluck, looking composed as she took the stand wearing a blue silk
suit and a large pearl necklace, said a committee of ministers had
made the decision to transfer the security chief.
"I did not interfere in the decision process ... which should be for
the benefit of the land," Yingluck told the court. "I have never
benefited from any transfer of civil servants."
Some legal experts say her entire government will have to go if she
is forced to step down, but her party rejects that.
She has led a caretaker administration with limited powers since
dissolving parliament in December ahead of the election and her
party says another interim prime minister can be chosen from among
her five deputies.
"There is no reason why the whole cabinet should go with her,"
Noppadon Pattama, a legal adviser to Thaksin, told Reuters. "That
would be like carrying out a double execution."
DECADE OF UNREST
Months of protests have undermined Yingluck's government, but she
has clung on and the number of protesters has dwindled.
Tension, however, is rising again as she faces cases in courts
criticized by her supporters as politicized.
Both her "red shirt" supporters and anti-government protesters plan
large rallies in or around Bangkok in coming days.
That raised the possibility of new mass violence, like in 2010, when
a government led by the current opposition leader ordered an army
crackdown on Thaksin supporters after two months of protests. More
than 90 died during those events.
"Tomorrow, red shirt leaders will gather at our Bangkok headquarters
and will issue a statement after the verdict," said Thanawut
Wichaidit, a spokesman for the group.
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"Whether we bring forward our May 10 rally depends on the court
ruling tomorrow. Let's wait and see."
Yingluck's ousting would be
a new boost in tension in nearly a decade of confrontation between
supporters of Thaksin and the Bangkok-based royalist establishment
who see Thaksin, a former telecoms tycoon, as a threat to their
interests and accuse him of corruption and nepotism.
Security chief Thawil was sidelined in 2011 when he was moved to an
inactive post, nominally as adviser to the prime minister. He has
argued that his transfer was to benefit the Shinawatras and their
He was replaced by then national police chief Wichien Podposri,
whose position as police chief was later given to Priewpan Damapong,
a brother-in-law of Thaksin.
Thawil was reinstated in March and the Constitutional Court then
accepted there were grounds to hear an abuse of power case brought
against the prime minister by 27 senators.
Yingluck also faces a charge of dereliction of duty over a state
rice-buying scheme that critics say is riddled with corruption and
has run up huge losses.
This charge was brought by the National Anti-Corruption Commission,
which is expected to deliver its ruling this month. A guilty verdict
here would also force Yingluck from office and she could in addition
get a five-year ban from politics.
Efforts to end the political crisis have come to nothing.
A proposal by opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva for a six-month
delay to a planned July general election to allow time for political
and electoral reforms has been rejected by the Puea Thai Party and
leaders of the anti-government movement.
(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Alan
Raybould and Ron Popeski)
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