BANGKOK — Thailand’s bitter political divide widened this week after two separate rulings by legal institutions forced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and raised the possibility that she could be banned from politics for five years. The developments also cast doubt over Thai national elections planned for July 20 after the country’s Constitutional Court voided the results of an earlier poll on Feb. 2, citing disruptions by anti-government protesters that prevented the poll from being completed nationwide in a single day, as required by the country’s constitution. On May 7 the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck and nine ministers had abused their offices when reassigning the National Security Council secretary in 2011 — a reshuffle that paved the way for the brother-in-law of Yingluck’s elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra, to take the position of police chief.
BANGKOK – Hundreds of thousands of Thais lined the streets of Bangkok on Wednesday to see King Bhumibol Adulyadej make a rare public speech to mark his 85th birthday. “My heart feels so good today seeing His Majesty,” says Penpat Thaweekul, one of the vast royal-supporting yellow-clad crowd waiting under a hot sun to catch a glimpse of the now-frail king speaking from a distant balcony. The world’s longest-sitting monarch is portrayed as a widely-revered apolitical father-figure – but even with this representation, there are lines Thailand’s elected politicians cannot cross. Though the royal institution once enjoyed a near-universal respect, recent polarization has raised questions about that role and about the country’s future after his reign. After the king’s reign, “the royalist domination in politics will be in disarray, for sure,” says historian Thongchai Winichakul. The rest, he says is unclear, wondering, “Will their power decline or will they take a tighter control during the transition?”