A Thai court has found Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abuse of power charges, removing her from office along with nine members of her Cabinet. A new acting premier has been appointed.
Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday morning that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was guilty of abuse of power charges. It had been alleged she replaced the national security chief in 2011 for the benefit of her Pheu Thai Party.
"The judges unanimously rule that Yingluck abused her prime minister status and interfered in transferring (Thawil Pliensri) for her own benefit," said Charoon Intachan, president of the nine-member court, in a televised ruling.
"Therefore her prime minister status has ended... Yingluck can no longer stay in her position acting as caretaker prime minister."
The guilty verdict means Yingluck will be removed from office and banned from politics. The court also removed nine members of her caretaker Cabinet from office, finding them complicit in Yingluck's decision.
The court found the transfer was carried out with a "hidden agenda" to benefit Yingluck's powerful family.
A short time after the ruling, the remaining members of Yingluck's Cabinet announced that Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan would become interim leader.
"I didn't receive any benefit"
Yingluck had appeared at the court on Tuesday to deny the allegations. "I would like to deny all allegations I am accused of," Yingluck said on Tuesday.
"I didn't violate any laws, I didn't receive any benefit from the appointment," she added.
Yingluck has faced mass anti-government protests since last year over other corruption allegations, including the failure to stop the billions in losses incurred from a failed rice subsidy scheme. Her critics accuse her of being a puppet for her brother, the ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin lives overseas to avoid jail for corruption convictions, but is accused of running the country through his sister. He was removed in a 2006 military coup.
The political upheaval over the past six months has left at least 25 dead. The removal of Yingluck from office is raising fears of more street protests in Bangkok, in a possible repeat of violent clashes between her supporters, anti-government protesters and security forces.
Thailand currently only has a caretaker government. In February, the Constituional Court nullified the results of snap elections because protesters had disrupted the polls.
jr/kms (AP, AFP)