The Constitutional Court of Thailand agrees to hear case that could imperil prime minister

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Pichit Chuenban, lawyer of former prime miniser Thaksin Shinawatra, is seen in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan 23, 2008. Thailand’s Constitutional Court on on May 23 accepted a petition from members of the country’s outgoing Senate to consider suspending Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin from office over his appointment of Chuenban as Cabinet Minister. (AP)

BANGKOK, May 23, (AP): Thailand’s Constitutional Court accepted a petition Thursday from members of the country’s outgoing Senate to begin an ethics probe against the prime minister over his appointment of a Cabinet member.
If eventually found guilty, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin could be ousted from his position.
The court ruled that Srettha’s appointment of Pichit Chuenban as minister of the Prime Minister’s Office was in violation of Section 160 of the constitution, which requires those in ministerial positions to “be of evident integrity” and bars those who fail to comply with ethical standards.
Pichit was jailed for six months in 2008 on contempt of court charges after he tried to bribe a judge presiding over former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s land purchase case with 2 million baht ($55,000) in a grocery bag.
Pichit resigned from his post Tuesday in what he described in his resignation letter as an effort to protect the prime minister. The minister of the Prime Minister’s Office is a position similar to the president’s chief of staff in the United States. Pichit had been in the job for 23 days following a Cabinet reshuffle in late April.
The same reshuffle that appointed Pichit also saw Thaksin’s allies taking up finance and foreign ministerial positions. “The petition was just a warning,” said Puangthong Pawakapan, political science professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, suggesting that critics are tired of Thaksin’s behind-the-scenes kingmaker act.
Still, the petition from over 40 senators is seen as the biggest challenge Srettha’s government has faced since it came to power in August 2023.

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