BANGKOK –- In most electoral democracies, it would have been an improbable scene. Despite facing arrest warrants for insurrection and murder, an anti-government protest leader was escorted by security into the country’s parliament house, where he lobbied the senate head to replace Thailand’s elected government with an appointed administration. The body language suggested that protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was no mere supplicant. A row of senators led by Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertcha greeted Mr Suthep, clasping hands and smiling as if deferring to the bluff former deputy prime minister. Outside, as night fell, several thousand backers of Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) sat on the street, listening to speeches bellowed through megaphones from the top of a truck as the meeting took place. “They have exchanged opinion for now, that is all,” said Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol, speaking afterwards.
BANGKOK — In a controversial ruling that deepened Thailand’s political crisis, the country’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to leave office, ruling that she abused her powers when she transferred a government official from his post three years ago. The court also demanded the removal of several of Yingluck’s cabinet ministers who it said were complicit in the transfer, throwing the status of her caretaker government into uncertainty ahead of elections scheduled for July. Shinawatra’s opponents had accused her of transferring the official, National Security Council head Thawil Pliensri, as part of a reshuffle aimed at installing a member of her influential family as police chief. Appearing in court on Tuesday, she denied any wrongdoing, saying she “never benefited from any transfer of civil servants.”
PHUN PHIN, THAILAND – The politician’s house is hidden behind two giant billboards, one of Thailand’s revered monarch and the other of the crown prince. “Long Live the King. May it please Your Majesty the King, on behalf of Thaugsuban family,” read the signs. In this corner of southern Thailand’s rubber-growing heartland, respect for the royal family is strong. But so too is respect – some might say fear – of the family of Suthep Thaugsuban, a veteran politician and dealmaker who is the face of antigovernment protests in Bangkok. He is a key player in a complex drama that, at its core, pits a conservative elite against an arriviste billionaire. Last weekend’s parliamentary elections saw Mr. Suthep’s movement in full throttle: Protesters blocked polling stations in the capital in a bid to defeat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s formidable political machine. In the south, an opposition stronghold, many districts had no candidates and hence no ballot.