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Thailand braces for more protests as court removes PM

May 8, 2014 Destination Thailand, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A return to street demonstrations in Bangkok seems likely after a Thai court yesterday ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. Yingluck’s removal may bring her red-shirted supporters onto the streets in protest.

Any return to unrest would dash the hopes of the country’s tourism industry, which had been longing for a period of calm after the anti-government protests which disrupted the Thai capital and depressed tourism numbers last year and earlier this year.

Yingluck, Thailand’s first woman prime minister, is the third Thai prime minister to be brought down by a court. The decision plunges Thailand into uncharted territory, observers said last night.

Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, a deputy prime minister, is set to replace Yingluck. A caretaker government would press ahead with plans for an election as scheduled on 20 July 2014. Yingluck’s party is considered likely to win because of its strong support in Thailand’s northern provinces – but opponents are unlikely to want the poll to proceed.

Thailand’s long-running political crisis sees poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, clashing with factions supported by Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment. Thaksin lives in exile overseas to avoid a 2008 jail sentence he received for abuse of power.

Yingluck’s support for an amnesty that might have allowed Thaksin to return greatly angered opponents of the Shinawatra clique.

The best-case scenario is that protests will be limited and confined to Bangkok, and that some sort of political settlement can be found. Tourists are always welcome and the political problems seldom affect them.

Few people, however, are predicting any quick end to Thailand’s political turmoil.

Written by Peter Needham

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