Thailand braces for court cases amid risk of political crisis

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Jun 18, 2024, 08:07 AM


Jun 18, 2024, 08:07 AM

BANGKOK - Four high-profile cases involving key political players in Thailand are scheduled to go before the courts on Tuesday, in the latest legal wrangling that could see Southeast Asia's second-largest economy plunged into a new period of uncertainty.

The cases involve some of Thailand's most powerful politicians, including its current prime minister, and could deepen a decades-old rift between the conservative-royalist establishment and its opponents, such as the populist ruling Pheu Thai party and the opposition Move Forward party.

"The political parties and representatives that voters have chosen are being systematically and repeatedly stymied," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.

A single petition can bring down a sitting, elected government or oust a prime minister, he said, outlining the power of the country's courts.

"There's a judicial assertiveness that has been damaging to Thailand, subverting popular will and popular mandates."

Such tensions have previously triggered violent street protests, dissolutions of political parties, airport closures and military coups that have hamstrung the economy.

Thai stock markets have already been rattled by the spectre of a political crisis. The main stock index dropped to its lowest level since November 2020 on Monday, and has fallen 8.4% so far this year, making it Asia's worst-performing market.

The billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, 74, a powerful backer of the ruling government, could face pre-trial detention if he is denied bail on Tuesday after being formally indicted for insulting the monarchy in a 2015 media interview.

Separately, the Constitutional Court will conduct a hearing in a case lodged by a group of senators that could potentially see Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin...

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