Former Thai PM formally indicted in royal insult case: Official

Former Thai PM formally indicted in royal insult case: Official

BANGKOK - Thailand’s influential former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been formally indicted for allegedly insulting the monarchy, the attorney-general’s office said on June 18.

Thaksin, 74, is expected to seek bail from a criminal court in the case that stems from a 2015 media interview.

Besides Thaksin, three other high-profile cases involving key political players in Thailand are scheduled to go before the courts on June 18, in the latest legal wrangling that could see South-east 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," Dr 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 June 17, and has fallen 8.4 per cent so far in 2024, making it Asia's worst-performing market.

Billionaire former premier Thaksin, a powerful backer of the ruling government, could face pre-trial detention if he is denied bail on June 18 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 dismissed from office for breaching the law in appointing a lawyer with a conviction record to his cabinet.

The same court will also hear a case seeking to disband the popular opposition Move Forward Party for their campaign to amend the country's royal insult law, following a complaint by the Election Commission.

The court is expected to announce the next hearing or verdict date for cases involving Srettha and Move Forward on June 18.

The Constitutional Court will also rule whether the ongoing selection process for a new upper house, which started earlier this month and is scheduled to conclude in early July, is lawful.

If the court cancels or delays the process, it would temporarily extend the term of military-appointed senators who have a played crucial role in the formation of the previous government. REUTERS

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