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Thai court to hear ethics case calling for removal of PM | Politics News

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Judges accept petition seeking Srettha Thavisin’s removal over cabinet appointment of lawyer who did jail time.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court will examine a plea seeking to remove Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin over his cabinet appointment of a lawyer with a criminal conviction.

Judges voted 6-3 on Thursday to accept a petition submitted by 40 senators to remove Srettha from office, but they rejected an application to suspend him from his duties as prime minister pending the probe.

If found guilty, Srettha could be removed from the top job.

The senators had complained that Srettha’s appointment last month of former lawyer Pichit Chuenban, jailed six months in 2008 for a contempt of court conviction, fell short of official moral and ethical standards.

Pichit’s jailing had followed accusations that he had attempted to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,218) placed in a paper grocery bag. He resigned from his role as minister of the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday in a bid to protect Srettha.

Government critics say Pichit got the job thanks to his close ties with influential billionaire ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, recently released on parole after being detained over corruption-related offences.

Thaksin is a close ally of Srettha and the founder of his ruling Pheu Thai party, which together with its predecessors has won all but one Thai election since 2001.

Srettha was elected by the legislature last year following a deal with parties and politicians allied with the royalist military, which staged coups against Thaksin-backed governments in 2006 and 2014.

The Constitutional Court has a record of rulings that favour the country’s conservative establishment.

The court decision is the latest setback for Srettha. It comes after three ministers quit in recent weeks as the government battles to jumpstart an underperforming economy.

The government is also scrambling to find funds to deliver on a delayed election promise of cash handouts for 50 million people.

Srettha has 15 days to file his defence in court. “I did everything sincerely and am ready to answer any query,” he told reporters while overseas in Japan after the court decision.

The court gave no timeframe for a decision in the case.



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