Thai Court Agrees to Give Prime Minister More Time in Key Case

Thailand’s Constitutional Court agreed to give caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra more time to prepare her defense in one of several pending legal cases that could remove her from office.

The court said Yingluck will have until May 2 to submit her defense in the case filed by a group of senators who allege the transfer of a security official in 2011 was an unconstitutional abuse of power meant to benefit the prime minister’s relatives. A lower court has already found the transfer unlawful.

The case has the potential to force Yingluck and her ministers from office and spark a constitutional crisis, depending on how the court interprets the charter. Protesters who disrupted a February election in a bid to topple the government have said a power vacuum may allow them to install a temporary, unelected government that would rewrite the nation’s political rules.

Any move to replace the government without an election would be met with protests from Yingluck’s supporters and could escalate political violence that has left 25 dead and hundreds wounded over the past six months. The unrest has also taken an economic toll, with the central bank saying today the economy may contract in the first quarter from the previous three months. The bank kept its key interest rate unchanged.

Yingluck’s opponents accuse her of corruption and being a puppet of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and lives abroad to avoid a jail sentence in a corruption case he says was politically motivated.

Election Boycott

Parties linked to Thaksin have won the past five national elections. The main opposition Democrat Party, which is closely aligned with the protest movement, hasn’t won a national poll in more than two decades. The Democrats boycotted the February election, which was later voided by the Constitutional Court.

Yingluck has denied the abuse-of-power charge as well as allegations that she neglected her duty as head of a committee that oversaw the government’s rice subsidy program. Earlier this month, she accused the nation’s anti-corruption commission of acting with speed not seen in cases filed against her opponents.

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