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Surapong fears violence if court rules against PM

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in a wheelchair due to a sprained ankle, gets a helping hand from former premier Banharn Silapa-archa during her visit to the Bueng Chawak Aquarium in Suphan Buri yesterday.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in a wheelchair due to a sprained ankle, gets a helping hand from former premier Banharn Silapa-archa during her visit to the Bueng Chawak Aquarium in Suphan Buri yesterday.

Yingluck insists Thawil's transfer within 'legal process'; Pheu Thai pessimistic on Constitutional Court verdict

Red-shirt rallies could turn violent if the Constitutional Court rules against caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in relation to the transfer of the National Security Council (NSC) chief, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul warned yesterday.

However, in her first public statement on the case, Yingluck maintained yesterday that the 2011 transfer of NSC secretary-general Thawil Pliensri to become her adviser was "in line with the legal process". She was reacting after the court agreed on Wednesday to consider the petition by a group of senators who accused her of conflict of interest in getting Thawil transferred.

Yingluck said yesterday that she expected the court to treat her case with the same standard applied to other politicians.

Meanwhile, political observers say the case would deliver a fatal blow to the premier and her caretaker government because if she is found guilty of violating the Constitution, she could lose her post automatically and her Cabinet could also be removed.

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled last month that Thawil's transfer was illegal.

"A political vacuum like this is not healthy and chaos will most surely follow. I'm not trying to instigate violence but I see the pressure people are under, and most Thais are hot-tempered. Chaos can break out at any time. I am not threatening the court, I'm just telling the truth," he said.

Surapong was apparently referring to the "vacuum" that might be created if Yingluck is disqualified as premier, as she cannot be replaced by a member of Parliament because the House of Representatives has been dissolved.

"We should be aware there could be chaos in the future. We have already seen this. Whatever the PDRC does, the UDD may do that too. A non-elected prime minister may be appointed to run the country but the UDD could also besiege Government Complex," Surapong said. He was referring to the anti- and pro-government groups, the People's Democratic Reform Committee and United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship respectively.

PM 'won't be spared'

Politicians from the ruling Pheu Thai Party also said yesterday that the Constitutional Court "would not spare" Yingluck in this case.

Surasit Jiamvichak, an ex-Pheu Thai MP, said it looked like the judiciary was colluding to create trouble for the prime minister as part of an effort to bring down the government.

Korkaew Pikulthong, a former Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader, said he expected the court to rule against Yingluck, adding that moves were being made to "distort the law".

He warned that if this was really happening, then the country would be in chaos, adding that he did not think the red shirts would accept a negative court verdict.

Another controversial issue is whether the entire caretaker Cabinet would have to go if Yingluck is disqualified.

Pheu Thai Party's key members insist that Yingluck was within her rights when she transferred Thawil and if she is disqualified as the anti-government group wishes, then it would result in a political vacuum as a non-elected premier is not possible under the Constitution. However, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung pointed out that the deputy premier could take over if Yingluck was disqualified.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said accepting the petition did not necessarily mean the court would disqualify Yingluck. He explained that the court would have to first consider whether Yingluck had violated the Constitution by interfering in the transfer and if the transfer was aimed at benefiting her and her group.

In a related development, the pro-government People's Radios for Democracy has announced that it will hold a rally across Bangkok and surrounding provinces today to "create a good public understanding" about the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The red-shirt group has tried to disrupt the work of the NACC, which is investigating a case against the premier.






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