Thai Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, has been found guilty by the constitutional court of breaching the Thai charter with judges calling on him to resign. The court’s decision adds to Thailand's political uncertainties and now a parliamentary meeting has been called to elect a new prime minister Friday.
Prime Minster Samak Sundaravej showing his food after he gave a cooking demo for Thai media at his residence in Bangkok in Feb 2008
In a more than hour long reading of the verdict nine judges of Thailand’s constitutional court found Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej guilty of undertaking outside employment while in office as prime minister.
Mr. Samak, who had hosted a television cooking show until early this year, was told by Constitution Court Judge Chat Chawakorn his premiership was over after working with a private TV production company.
Under Thailand’s charter, the current cabinet except Mr Samak will continue to perform their duties as caretaker ministers until the new cabinet is appointed.
Late Tuesday the house speaker called a parliamentary meeting for Friday to elect a new prime minister. Mr. Samak could be returned to the post after coalition parties in the seven month old government said they would support his return to office.
No end to political crisis
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, says the court’s verdict adds to current political uncertainties facing the country. “In the short term it’s going to be a lot of instability and confusion among the government leadership and administration. But in the longer term it is becoming clearer that legal issues will be emphasized. All parties concerned in the current crisis must be subjected more to the decision of the court.”
Mr. Samak was not in the court when the verdict was read out, and was represented by his lawyer. But protestors encamped in the grounds of the government’s main administration building for the past two weeks calling for Mr. Samak to resign cheered the verdict.
Most leaders from the six party coalition government led by the People’s Power Party, immediately rallied behind Mr. Samak saying they would re-endorse him at the next time parliament met.
Is reconciliation possible?
Anti-government protestors have for the past several weeks been calling on Mr. Samak to step down. But Mr. Samak has refused saying he will remain in office “to protect democracy”.
Buranaj Samutharak, the spokesman for Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party, said re-electing Mr. Samak to head the government would prolong the crisis. Buranaj said the verdict also offered an opportunity for steps towards political reconciliation: “Now all parties have to take stock of the recent verdict by the constitutional court and what part all of us can be playing to mediate the current situation in Thailand.”
But he warned the re-election of Mr Samak is likely to only heighten divisiveness in Thai society.
Bangkok remains under a state of emergency, although generally life and business seem relatively unaffected. The emergency was announced last week after clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters.