‘Democracy died in Thailand today’: impeached PM
BANGKOK // Thailand’s embattled former prime minister has decried the “death of democracy”.
The junta-stacked parliament impeached Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday and prosecutors announced corruption charges that could see her jailed.
The impeachment of Ms Yingluck, the kingdom’s first female premier and the sister of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, carries an automatic five-year ban from politics, while the criminal charges could see her sentenced to a decade in prison.
She swiftly denounced the decisions as an assault on democracy and vowed to fight the new corruption charges.
“Democracy has died in Thailand today, along with the rule of law. That move to destroy me is still ongoing and I face it now,” she said in a statement published on Facebook after plans to hold a press conference were called off on the advice of junta officials.
Experts say the impeachment and criminal charges are the latest attempt by the country’s royalist elite, and its army-backers, to nullify the political influence of the Shinawatras, whose parties have won every election since 2001.
But the junta’s pursuit of the family could also disturb the uneasy calm that has descended on Thailand since the military took over.
The Shinawatras’ ‘Red Shirt’ supporters, who have lain low since the coup, were enraged by the twin decisions but leaders warned against widespread street protests in a country where political gatherings are banned under martial law.
“Today’s impeachment is the highest provocation, aimed at encouraging the Red Shirts to come out so they [the government] can shift the blame for all their failures onto the Red Shirts,” Jatuporn Prompan, the movement’s leader, said.
Both the impeachment and corruption charges revolve around her administration’s controversial rice subsidy programme, which funnelled cash to her rural base but cost billions of dollars, and inspired protests that felled her government and led to a military takeover in May.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: January 23, 2015 04:00 AM