The decision is bound to anger supporters of Yingluck, but the
court did allow ministers not implicated in the case against her to
stay in office, a move that could take some of the sting out of any
backlash on the streets.
After the ruling, the cabinet said Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong
Boonsongphaisan, who is also a deputy prime minister, would replace
Yingluck, and the caretaker government would press ahead with plans
for a July 20 election.
Yingluck, who faced six months of sometimes deadly protests in the
capital, Bangkok, aimed at toppling her government, thanked the Thai
people in a televised news conference.
"Throughout my time as prime minister I have given my all to my work
for the benefit of my countrymen ... I have never committed any
unlawful acts as I have been accused of doing," Yingluck said,
smiling and outwardly upbeat.
"From now on, no matter what situation I am in, I will walk on the
path of democracy. I am sad that I will not be able to serve you
Despite her removal from power, there is no obvious end in sight to
the turmoil in Thailand, with protesters still pushing for political
reforms before new elections.
The judge who delivered the verdict at the Constitutional Court said
Yingluck had abused her position by transferring a security chief to
another post in 2011 so that a relative could benefit from
subsequent job moves.
"The accused was involved in the transfer of Thawil Pliensri from
his position as National Security Council head," the judge said,
adding that this was done so that Priewpan Damapong, a relative,
could "gain a new position".
"The accused acted for her own political benefit ... The transfer
wasn't done for the benefit of the country," he added.
Yingluck, a businesswoman until entering politics to lead her party
to victory in a 2011 election, denied wrongdoing in court on
Tuesday. She was not present on Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear if she could appeal or if she faced a
ban on participation in politics and other penalties.
COURTS ACCUSED OF BIAS
Thailand's drawn-out political crisis broadly pits Bangkok's middle
class and royalist establishment against mainly poor, rural
supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin
He was ousted by the military in 2006 and lives in exile to avoid a
jail sentence handed down in 2008 for abuse of power.
Yingluck's supporters accuse the Constitutional Court of bias in
frequently ruling against governments loyal to Thaksin. In 2008, the
court forced two prime ministers linked to Thaksin from office.
Some legal experts had expected the court to remove her entire
government. Instead, it ruled that nine ministers linked to the case
should step down but others could remain, leaving Yingluck's ruling
party in charge of a caretaker government.
"We were bracing ourselves for this verdict. Everything our enemies
do is to cripple the democratic process," said Jatuporn Prompan, the
leader of pro-Shinawatra "red shirt" activists. "The court chose a
middle way today."
Asked about a vow to resist Yingluck's removal that had raised fears
of violence between rival factions, Jatuporn replied: "There is no
reason why we should take up arms. We will rally peacefully as
planned on May 10."
In Thailand the prime minister is normally elected by the lower
house of parliament, but that was dissolved in December when
Yingluck called a snap election to try to defuse protests.
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From that point, she headed a caretaker administration with limited
powers. The election in February was disrupted and later declared
void by the Constitutional Court.
Yingluck and the Election Commission agreed last week that a new
ballot should be held on July 20, but that date has not been
formally approved and it is bound to be opposed again by protesters.
PROTESTS WILL GO ON
Thaksin or his loyalists have won every election since 2001 and
would probably win again.
The former telecoms tycoon won huge support in rural areas and among
the urban poor with populist policies such as cheap healthcare and
loans. But his enemies say he is a corrupt crony capitalist who
harbors republican sympathies, which he denies.
The anti-government protesters say they want to end Thaksin's
influence over politics, which is considerable despite him being
based abroad, and are demanding reform of the electoral system
before new polls.
When they failed to achieve their aims in the street, Yingluck's
opponents turned to legal challenges to remove her.
A leader of the anti-government protesters, who are based in a
central Bangkok park, welcomed the court's decision to remove
Yingluck but said their campaign would go on.
"Of course, there is celebration here today but we still have not
completed our goals, which are reforms and a delayed general
election," said Samdin Lertbutr.
"Even though she is gone, they are still the caretaker government,"
Samdin told Reuters, adding that a big rally planned for May 14
would go ahead.
Ongoing turmoil would make matters worse for Southeast Asia's
second-largest economy, already suffering from weak exports, a
year-long slump in industrial output, a drop in tourism and a
caretaker government with curtailed powers.
The army, which has staged numerous coups since the end of absolute
monarchy in 1932, has stayed out of the turmoil, as has King
Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king, who is 86, has intervened to defuse
previous crises but has not commented since this one blew up late
The divide between the poor and what they see as the establishment
elite represents a collapse of a traditional order in Thailand at a
time when people have begun to broach the hitherto taboo topic of
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn does not command the same devotion as
his father, the world's longest-reigning monarch.
(Writing by Alan Raybould and Martin Petty; Editing by Robert
Birsel, Nick Macfie and Mike Collett-White)
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