Thailand's Constitutional Court ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra out of office on Wednesday, following accusations that she transferred National Security Council head Thawil Pliensri into another job to clear the position for a member of her family, a charge that Yingluck has denied. The court also ordered nine members of Yingluck's cabinet to leave the government, but left the majority of the cabinet in place.
In the short term at least, the move will do little to resolve the months-long political crisis brewing in the country. Twenty people have died in Thailand since November during anti-government protests against Yingluck's administration. Those protesters are mainly middle class, and mainly urban, and have long called for the Prime Minister to be replaced with an unelected "people's council," as the BBC noted. But Yingluck has substantial support from the country's more rural population, who will read the court's decision as yet another slight against Yingluck and her political party. In February, the same court invalidated the results of a snap election that she was expected to win, because anti-government protesters blocked polling stations in up to one-fifth of the country's voting districts, as the Los Angeles Times reported. Yingluck still faces several other unresolved accusations of government corruption.
So on one side, there are Yingluck's supporters, who believe that the courts are biased against Yingluck and her administration, and won't accept the ruling. And on the other, there are the protesters who believe that Yingluck's rich, influential family, is responsible for the bulk of the country's political corruption over the last few years. Yingluck is the sister of Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is now living in exile to avoid imprisonment following his own abuse of power court case. Protesters have accused Yingluck of essentially functioning as a proxy ruler in her brother's absence. Indeed, the November protests were prompted by an amnesty bill Yingluck's administration tried to push through Parliament, one that was widely seen as an attempt to let her brother return from exile without going to jail.
But it's not that simple. The AP explains the Constitutional Court's history of sympathy to the anti-government protesters:
Thailand's courts, like its military, are seen as bastions of anti-Thaksin conservatism, and have a record of hostile rulings toward the Shinawatra political machine, which is fueled by a fortune Thaksin made in the telecommunications sector. Thaksin's opponents, including those who have rioted and attacked police, destroyed public property and occupied government offices, have usually been treated leniently by the courts.
The court has previously dissolved Thaksin's original political party, and ousted two successive Prime Ministers who were supportive of the former leader.
In theory, Thailand will hold a new round of elections — announced by Yingluck last week — on July 20th. But today's court decision could end up delaying that date, which was already rejected by the opposition.