|Crunch court ruling threatens Thai PM
Thailand's Constitutional Court is set Wednesday to decide whether to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office on abuse of power charges, a ruling that threatens to unleash a new wave of political unrest in the kingdom.
The premier appeared at the court on Tuesday to deny allegations that she replaced the national security chief in 2011 for the benefit of her party -- an offense for which she can be sacked.
But the court, which has played a key role in deposing Shinawatra-linked governments in recent turbulent chapters of Thai politics, said it was ready to rule at noon on Wednesday, AFP reports.
The case, one of two potential knockout legal moves against Yingluck's premiership, comes as Thailand's prolonged political crisis reaches a critical juncture.
After six months, anti-government protesters remain on Bangkok's streets -- although in diminished numbers -- and Yingluck's "Red Shirt'' supporters are also threatening to rally to defend her, raising fears of clashes.
"Given the record of this particular set of Constitutional Court judges, it does not seem likely that the case against Yingluck will simply be dismissed,'' said Thailand-based author and scholar David Streckfuss.
"She is likely to be found guilty, and she will have to step down.''
The kingdom has been bedevilled by a bitter political schism since 2006 when an army coup deposed Yingluck's brother, billionaire former telecoms magnate Thaksin Shinawatra.
He is reviled by the Bangkok elite, middle class and royalist southerners who say he has sponsored nepotism, widespread corruption and perceive him as a threat to the monarchy.
But he is loved by the populous, poor north and northeast and among the urban working class for recognising their burgeoning political and economic aspirations.
They have returned Shinawatra-led or linked governments to power in every election since 2001.
Thaksin lives overseas to avoid jail for corruption convictions, but is accused of running the country by proxy through his sister.