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Govt to push ahead with poll

PHEU THAI HANDS OVER THE REINS TO NIWATTUMRONG AS CHARTER COURT DISMISSES YINGLUCK

interim Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan said yesterday that he will ensure the upcoming general election can proceed uninterrupted after Yingluck Shinawatra was dismissed yesterday as PM by the Constitutional Court for abuse of power.

"I will also take care of the people and the economy," he added.

The court ruled unanimously that Yingluck and nine 2011 Cabinet members had abused their power to remove Thawil Pliensri as secretary-general of the National Security Council in the interest of her family.

Niwattumrong was qualified to take the job as he ranked second in seniority to Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who was also discharged, said Prompong Nopparit, spokesman for the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

"Niwattumrong is capable and experienced, as he has served the administration for a long time. He will be able to coordinate all parties for the benefit of the people," he said.

Yingluck had been in office for two years, nine months and two days since her Pheu Thai Party won the 2011 election. Her victory displeased the elite and urban middle class, which decided she was merely a clone of Thaksin, her elder brother, who was deposed by a military coup in 2006.

Her attempt through an amnesty bill to engineer a pardon for Thaksin, who was sentenced to prison, sparked a series of mass protests in Bangkok led by the opposition ally People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

In a statement after the charter court's judgement, Yingluck said she was proud of performing the duty of prime minister for the past years. Her regret was not having a chance to serve the country and the people any more.

"We have served the country honestly and fairly. We've never acted in corrupt ways as we were accused, or shown favouritism towards anyone. We have not acted against constitutional laws as accused," she said.

The court's verdict was considered by the ruling party as part of a conspiracy to topple Thaksin's associates from power.

Senator Paiboon Nititawan, who filed the petition against Yingluck, praised the verdict and demanded that the remaining ministers in the Cabinet step down, claiming they no longer had any legitimacy. The appointed senator wanted the entire Yingluck cabinet to step aside so that the Senate could appoint a non-elected prime minister to "reform" the country.

PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said that since the prime minister was ousted, Thailand now has no government. It was a good chance for his group to set up a "people's government". Yingluck's cabinet has no legitimacy to pick anybody to lead the caretaker government, he claimed.

Pheu Thai legal expert Bhokin Bhalakula called on the Thai people to rise up and oppose the Constitutional Court's ruling and on the Election Commission to push for an election as soon as possible. The EC previously agreed to hold the poll on July 20.

Bhokin told a press conference that the charter court's decision was made hastily and unconstitutionally, as the former Cabinet members must stay as caretakers until a new government succeeds them in line with the charter.

"You [Thai people] may see the joint attempt of the Democrat Party, PDRC and some independent organisations to prevent the election on July 20 and to have a non-elected prime minister," he said.

"The Pheu Thai Party calls on those who love democracy and justice to oppose the conspiracy by exercising their constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, to assemble, petition, file complaints and take legal action as well as oppose [the ruling] by all means," he said.

Red-shirt leader Worachai Hema confirmed that the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship would still stage a mass rally on Aksa Road on Saturday and had scheduled a follow-up mass rally for next Wednesday, when PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban has said his group would step up anti-government measures.




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