Bye-bye protesters? Pic: AP.

Feeling in Bangkok is that the courts may rule to preserve PM Yingluck in power, reports Asia Sentinel

It is starting to appear that the gamble by forces backing Thai opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban to use the courts to drive Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her fugitive brother Thaksin from political dominance may fail.

That coincides with a fading campaign to attempt to bring down the government through three months of demonstrations that closed government offices, choked Bangkok intersections, damaged tourism and cut into gross domestic product. As one of the omens that things may be making a turn for the better, the country’s stock market has again begun to rise, slowly but steadily, from 1304.62 on Feb. 26 to 1345 on March 4.  Another omen is a report that the Election Commission has approved US$22 million from the central budget to pay rice farmers who pledged their rice under the rice-pledging scheme.

Suthep announced Sunday that the opposition forces, backed surreptitiously by some of the country’s biggest businesses and banks, would abandon the Ratchaprasong intersection that was the center of the campaign and other venues in Bangkok and consolidate in Lumpini Park. In reality, Suthep, who advocates a non-elected People’s Democratic Reform Committee to run the government while enacting reforms, has only been able to rally a few hundred demonstrators at successively weakening rallies.

(MORE: Inside Lumpini Park: Thai anti-govt protesters vow to stay the course)

That doesn’t mean the political chaos that has plagued the city for three months is over. Some 53 leaders of Suthep’s PDRC have been issued summons for insurrection and instigating people to break the law, which they have ignored. Thugs armed with automatic rifles continue to patrol the streets. There are still significant dangers on all sides, including the very real threat of all-out civil war – especially if Thailand’s Anti-Corruption Court rules to force Yingluck to step down.

From the start, the elites, aligned with the Democrat Party, have been counting on the courts to oust Yingluck, as the courts have ousted Thaksin surrogate governments from power going back to 2007. From the start, sources say in Bangkok, the demonstrations have largely been largely a sideshow to the greater strategy of forcing a decision from traditionally Democrat-friendly courts.

The current action is in the Anti-Corruption Court, where Yingluck faces impeachment over her role as head of a wasteful and largely corrupt rice-pledging scheme that had a devastating impact on the treasury, roiled the global rice market and has left unpaid farmers furious. The prime minster was charged with negligence on Feb. 26. If found guilty, she could be removed from office and would face a five-year ban from politics.

The charges, however, have energized the Red Shirt forces who dominate the north and northeast of the country and led to the looming threat of violence. Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha warned last week that the country could face collapse unless the political crisis is addressed.

“The actual legal grounds are for impeachment are shaky in the extreme, to say the least,” a western banker told Asia Sentinel. “The Red Shirts are now emboldened and mobilized, then maybe the judicial court will decide she is not guilty? I think the consequences of a judicial coup might be very bloody.”

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