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Thailand faces a critical week of cases that could trigger a political crisis

17/6/2024 6:10
        Thailand faces a critical
        week of court cases that could trigger a political crisis in
        Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, with the fate of the
        prime minister and the main opposition hanging in the balance.
        
        Four cases before the courts on Tuesday involve the
        country's most powerful politicians: Prime Minister Srettha
        Thavisin, former prime leader Thaksin Shinawatra, the popular
        opposition Move Forward party and upper-house lawmakers.
        
        For decades, Thailand's politics has been shaped by a
        struggle between its conservative-royalist establishment,
        supported by the military, and populist parties such as those
        backed by Thaksin and the current opposition Move Forward party.
        
        "These cases highlight the fragility and complexity of
        Thailand's political climate," ANZ Research said in a note.
        
        "On the economic front, the immediate concerns are the
        potential for disruptive protests and delays to fiscal policy
        implementation."
        
        
        
        HOW IS THE PRIME MINISTER INVOLVED?
        
        Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, a political novice who
        took office last August, has been accused by a group of
        conservative senators of breaching the constitution when he
        appointed a former lawyer with a conviction record to his
        cabinet.
        
        Srettha, who denies any wrongdoing, could face dismissal if
        the Constitutional Court rules against him.
        
        If Srettha is removed from office, a new government must be
        formed and his ruling Pheu Thai party would need to put forward
        a new candidate for premier to be voted on by parliament.
        
        The court will likely announce the next hearing or verdict
        date on Tuesday.
        
        
        
        WHAT IS THE CASE AGAINST THAKSIN?
        
        Thaksin, the influential former premier who was ousted in a
        2006 military coup, is to be formally indicted in a criminal
        court in Bangkok for allegedly insulting the royalty and other
        charges linked to a 2015 media interview on Tuesday.
        
        The court will then decide whether or not to grant bail to
        the billionaire politician, who has said he is innocent. "This
        case has no merit at all," he told reporters earlier this month.
        
        Thailand's lese-majeste law, one of the world's toughest,
        carries a maximum jail sentence of up to 15 years for each
        perceived royal insult.
        
        The 74-year-old returned to Thailand to a rock star's
        reception last August after 15 years of self-imposed exile.
        
        Hours after his arrival, Shinawatra family-backed Pheu Thai
        and Srettha sailed through a parliamentary vote to pick the
        prime minister, fuelling speculation that Thaksin had struck a
        deal with his former enemies in the conservative establishment.
        
        Thaksin and the Pheu Thai party have denied this.
        
        
        
        IS THE OPPOSITION UNDER THREAT?
        
        Another case could lead to the dissolution of the
        progressive Move Forward party, which has 30% of seats in the
        lower house after winning last year's closely-fought election
        but was blocked by conservative lawmakers from forming a
        government.
        
        The dissolution of Move Forward's predecessor party, Future
        Forward, in 2020 over a campaign funding violation was among the
        factors that triggered massive anti-government street protests.
        
        The Constitutional Court is considering an Election
        Commission complaint that alleges the Move Forward party
        breached the constitution with an election campaign to reform
        the country's royal insult law.
        
        Move Forward, which denies any wrongdoing, ceased efforts to
        change the law following a January verdict from the same court
        that ruled the party's plan to amend the law was a hidden effort
        to undermine the monarchy.
        
        The court is expected to announce the next hearing or
        verdict date on Tuesday.
        
        
        
        WHAT ABOUT THE SENATE ELECTION?
        
        The Constitutional Court will also deliver a verdict on
        Tuesday on the ongoing selection of a new 200-member Senate,
        after accepting a petition questioning whether parts of the
        complex, three-tier process were lawful.
        
        If the process is cancelled or delayed, it would temporarily
        extend the term of military-appointed lawmakers who have been
        central in determining government formation, including last
        year's manoeuvre to block Move Forward from forming a
        government.
        
        The current upper house was hand-picked by the military
        following a 2014 coup that ousted an elected Pheu Thai
        government that had been led by Thaksin's sister, who still
        lives in self-imposed exile.
        



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