The Opinion Pages | Editorial
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, MAY 8, 2014
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A decision by Thailand’s highest court to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office is almost sure to send the country deeper into crisis. Pro- and antigovernment groups are already massing for more protests that will further divide the polarized country and further disrupt an already weak economy.
In a decision that smacked of bias, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that Ms. Shinawatra and several other ministers could no longer serve in their positions because, it said, the prime minister had abused her power when she reassigned a government official in 2011 and gave his job to a relative. Ms. Shinawatra was replaced by an acting prime minister who is one of her former deputies. It was the third time the justices have removed the head of the government in recent years using dubious legal reasoning; in 2008, the court removed the prime minister, who also belonged to Ms. Shinawatra’s political movement, because he accepted payments to appear on a TV cooking show.
Opposition politicians, some of whom brought the court case that led to Ms. Shinawatra’s dismissal, have been campaigning for months to remove her government and replace it with a team of unelected officials who would then carry out reforms, so far unspecified. Separately, the National Anti-Corruption Commission began proceedings on Thursday to impeach Ms. Shinawatra in connection with a subsidy program for rice farmers. Those proceedings could eventually result in her being banned from Thai politics altogether.
Many of Ms. Shinawatra’s troubles are of her own making. Unrest and violence, which has claimed about 20 lives, began in November after she tried to push through an ill-conceived amnesty law that would have pardoned her controversial brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, and others involved in the country’s political conflicts of the last decade. The current crisis is also fueled by longstanding regional and class divisions that have been exploited by both the Shinawatras, who have cultivated the support of more rural and poorer Thais in the north and northeast, and by their opponents, who tend to be based in the south and in Bangkok.
The latest ruling will do little to calm the waters. A national election is tentatively scheduled for July 20, and as it comes closer, the antigovernment protesters who have been in the streets for months are likely to be joined by red-shirted supporters of the Shinawatra family. Thailand, which has managed to grow despite its chaotic politics and frequent coups, appears to be approaching a breaking point.
But more protests will not solve anything. What the country needs now is compromise and reconciliation. In the past, the country’s king, who is 86 and ailing, or its army often stepped in to resolve political conflicts. Now, neither appears able or willing to do that. That makes it all the more important for both sides to come to their senses.
A version of this editorial appears in print on May 9, 2014, on page A26 of the New York edition with the headline: A Coup by Another Name in Thailand.