Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has defended herself against abuse of power allegations in a crucial court case that is one of several legal challenges that could remove her from office.
Yingluck’s testimony at the constitutional court marked the latest twist in Thailand’s political crisis. Supporters accuse the courts of trying to topple Yingluck through unfair use of the legal system after six months of anti-government protests failed to unseat her.
She is accused of abusing her authority by transferring her national security council chief in 2011 to another position. Critics say the move was designed to benefit her ruling party and violated the constitution.
“I would like to deny all allegations I am accused of,” Yingluck said calmly, seated beside her legal team. “As the prime minister, I am entitled to carry out responsibilities I have toward the people … and for the utmost benefit of the general public.”
The case was lodged by anti-government senators, who won an initial victory in February, when another court ruled that the official, Thawil Pliensri, must be restored to his job.
If Yingluck is found guilty of interfering in state affairs for her personal benefit or that of her political party, she would have to step down as prime minister.
The 2007 Constitution:
Section 266. A member of the House of Representatives and a senator shall not, through the status or position of member of the House of Representatives or senator, interfere or intervene the following matters, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of his own or other persons or of political party:
(2) the recruitment, appointment, reshuffle, transfer, promotion and elevation of the salary scale of a government official holding a permanent position or receiving salary and not being a political official, an official or employee of a government agency, State agency, State enterprise or local government organisation;
Section 268. The Prime Minister and a Minister shall not perform any act in violation of the provisions of section 266, except the performance of powers and duties for the administration of State affairs as stated to the National Assembly or as provided by law.
Arguing against the allegations that she made Thawil’s transfer to benefit her family, Yingluck told the court that her brother, Thaksin, had already divorced Khunying Potjaman Na Pombejra.
Yingluck also told the court that she had assigned then deputy prime minister Kowit Wattana to be in charge of the Royal Thai Police and security affairs.
She said she did not consider the transfer of the police chief and the NSC chief because she and her Cabinet trusted Kowit and regarded that Kowit had already considered the matter.
The court yesterday heard the testimony of four witnesses in the case. The witnesses were Thawil, Senator Paiboon Nititawan – who had brought the case to court – former national police chief Wichean Potephosree, who replaced Thawil, and the PM
In his testimony yesterday, Wichean said his own transfer had been made with his consent.
“The transfer was [a result of] my disappointment that my [then] supervisor Pol Captain Chalerm Yoobamrung harshly blamed me. He said the police protected gambling dens and brothels. That [statement] damaged the people’s faith. “When I [as the national police chief] was thus accused, I sought advice from Kowit Wattana saying I couldn’t work with such a supervisor,” he said.
BP: The three other witnesses were going to be fairly predictable but Wichean was the wildcard on whether his testimony would help the government. The argument is clear here, Wichean wanted a transfer and that this was the cause of the changes. While his testimony probably won’t be take into account by the Court, it will be interesting to see the scope of what the Court says regarding what constitutes own benefit (is an ex brother-in-law included?) because to go beyond that will become very murky for future governments (or at least difficult for the court to explain the differences…..)
On the subject on abuse of power, the Bangkok Post:
They were just small hand-written notes but they have shaken the judiciary. The notes — one was sent to police chief Adul Saengsingkaew, and the other to his deputy — were scribbled by the secretary-general of the Office of the Administrative Courts Direkrit Jenkrongtham.
His objective was to bring to the attention of Gen Adul Saengsingkaew a police officer who is a close friend of Supreme Administrative Court President Hassavut Vititviriyakul’s nephew who, being a good guy, deserved to be promoted during the police transfer season.
Although Mr Direkrit insisted that the notes were not meant to exert any influence or interfere in the police transfer process, as his intention was only to “show admiration” for the officer who had taken care of the court president on several occasions, it reveals to us that favourism, cronyism or nepotism — whatever it is called — is a widespread practice in the bureaucratic system. Or we can say this is a culture that is very deep-rooted in our society.
Now, all eyes are on the judiciary. The immediate move by the Supreme Administrative Court president to launch a probe into Mr Direkrit’s act on Tuesday is very welcome. The fact that the court president himself is implicated in the affair could be a dilemma in itself. Needless to say, many will still be sceptical of the investigation process.
The government has harshly criticised a top court official for lobbying the chief of the Royal Thai Police to grant a promotion to a policeman he knows personally.
The letter was written by the secretary general of the Administrative Court, Direkrit Jenkrongtham, and addressed to the Thai police chief, Pol.Gen. Adul Saengsingkaew.
Mr. Direkrit added that it is important to have policemen who are close to court officials in high-ranking positions, for the sake of reliable security service.
“The request for policemen we trust, such as those who are our relatives or used to work with us … to be in a position to provide security is perfectly reasonable,” Mr. Direkrit said.
“We need people we can trust in charge. We can’t use just anyone. They may stab us in the back later on,” Mr. Direk told Isra News. “This is not an interference or abuse of power.“
BP: The same Court who found against Yingluck in the Thawil case…
h/t to a reader for the Khao Sod article