Thousands of her loyalists were converging on the capital as the
National Anti-Corruption Commission's announced its decision to
press ahead with charges related to a financially ruinous state
The blows delivered on successive days by the commission and
Thailand's Constitutional Court are the latest twists in a struggle
for power between Thailand's royalist establishment and Yingluck's
brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
"The committee has investigated and there is enough evidence to make
a case ... We will now forward it to the Senate," the National
Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) president, Panthep Klanarongran,
If found guilty by the Senate, Yingluck could be banned from
politics for five years. Several other members of the family and
about 150 of Thaksin's other political allies have been banned for
five-year terms since 2007.
Yingluck's removal from office by the Constitutional Court on
Wednesday for abuse of power followed months of sometimes deadly
protests in Bangkok aimed at toppling her government and ending
elder brother Thaksin's influence.
Thaksin, a billionaire former telecommunications tycoon who has won
the unswerving loyalty of legions of Thailand's rural and urban
poor, lives in exile to avoid a 2008 jail sentence for abuse of
power, but he looms over politics.
The Constitutional Court, which removed two previous pro-Thaksin
prime ministers in 2008, ruled that Yingluck and nine of her cabinet
ministers had abused power in 2011 over the transfer of a security
However, the court left the Shinawatras' ruling party in charge of a
caretaker administration intent on organizing a July 20 general
election, which Yingluck's party would likely win.
The rice subsidy scheme that is the focus of the anti-corruption
commission case was a flagship policy of Yingluck's administration,
aimed at helping her rural supporters, under which the state paid
farmers way above market prices for their crops.
But the government could not sell much of the rice it quickly
stockpiled and was unable to pay many farmers.
"The scheme incurred huge losses and had weaknesses and risks at
every level from the registration of farmers to the sale of the
rice," Commissioner Vicha Mahakun told reporters.
Activists from both the pro- and anti-government sides are planning
big rallies in Bangkok in the coming days, raising fears of clashes.
Twenty-five people have been killed since the protests began in
"This is the first time both sides will protest near each other and
each have hardcore elements, which is extremely worrying," said
political analyst Kan Yuenyong at the Siam Intelligence Unit think
Grenade attacks and sporadic gun battles have become increasingly
frequent as the crisis has dragged on. There were four grenade or
small bomb blasts in Bangkok on Wednesday night, including one at
the home of a Constitutional Court judge. No injuries were reported,
MESSAGE TO ELITE
The military, which has a long history of intervening in politics,
has said it will try to stay out this time but would step in if
violence worsened. Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said there were no
plans to increase troop numbers in Bangkok.
[to top of second column]
One undercurrent of the crisis is deep anxiety over the issue of
royal succession. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's
longest-reigning monarch, is 86 years old and spent the years from
2009 to 2013 in hospital.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn does not
command the same devotion as his father.
Pro-government "red shirt" supporters of the Shinawatras accuse the
royalist establishment of "conspiring to overthrow elected
governments" at a time when the traditional order in Thailand is
"I would like to send a message ... from the red shirt people of the
land to the elite that the person ... we are fighting is Prem
Tinsulanonda," red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said in a blunt
televised statement on Thursday.
Prem is a retired general and former prime minister and head of the
king's Privy Council, an appointed body that advises the monarch.
Thaksin loyalists accused Prem of masterminding the 2006 coup that
overthrew Thaksin. Prem denied that.
Phuttiphong Khamhaengphon, a red shirt leader in the northeastern
city of Khon Kaen, said as many as 100,000 people would head to
Bangkok by bus and pick-up truck from the region, to join a rally on
Supporters of the Shinawatras in their hometown of Chiang Mai in the
north also said 100,000 people were heading to Bangkok for the
The anti-government side has vowed to launch a "final push" to rid
the country of Thaksin's influence on Friday.
More turmoil could further undermine Southeast Asia's second-largest
economy, already teetering on the brink of recession amid weak
exports, a year-long slump in industrial output and a drop in
tourism, presided over by a caretaker government with curtailed
Consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in more than 12 years
in April as the crisis took its toll.
Yingluck dissolved parliament in December and called a snap election
but the main opposition party boycotted it and anti-government
activists disrupted it so much it was declared void.
Yingluck and the Election Commission agreed last week a new ballot
should be held on July 20, but the date has not been formally
approved and it is bound to be opposed by the anti-government
Thaksin or his loyalists have won every election since 2001.
The anti-government protesters say Thaksin buys elections and, to
end his hold over politics, they say reform of the electoral system
has to be implemented before new polls.
(Additional reporting by Martin Petty; Writing by Robert Birsel;
Editing by Alex Richardson and Alan Raybould)
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