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Legal challenge could unseat Thai prime minister for alleged misconduct

AP

Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is facing another legal challenge that could remove her from office after a Thai court announced Wednesday it will hear a case on her alleged misconduct over the transfer of a key government official.

The announcement by the Constitutional Court came amid criticism from Yingluck supporters that the courts are trying to topple the prime minister through unfair use of the legal system after four months of anti-government protests have failed to unseat her.

The latest case was lodged by anti-government senators, who say Yingluck violated the constitution by transferring her National Security Council chief to another position in 2011. Another court ruled February that the official, Thawil Pliensri, must be restored to his former post.

The Constitutional Court ordered Yingluck to present her defense within 15 days. If she is found guilty of interfering in state affairs for her own personal benefit or that of her political party, she would be forced to step down as prime minister.

Thailand has been gripped by political conflict since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, was ousted in a military coup following accusations of corruption and abusing power. Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have taken to the streets for extended periods in a power struggle that is currently focused on removing Yingluck.

The courts and independent state agencies are widely perceived to be biased against Thaksin’s political machine, and there are fears that Yingluck supporters could return to the streets if they feel she is facing a so-called judicial coup.

Currently, Yingluck is a caretaker prime minister, having called early polls in February as a way of affirming her mandate after the protests erupted. However, the Feb. 2 polls were annulled last month by the Constitutional Court and no date has been set for a new polls.