Thai opposition wants premier impeached

Thailand’s main opposition party accused Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday of abusing the Constitution and tabled an impeachment motion against him, listing his choice of foreign minister among its complaints.

The Puea Thai party, which is close to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said Abhisit should not have made Kasit Piromya foreign minister because of his support for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The royalist PAD helped undermine pro-Thaksin governments last year through a street campaign that led to the blockade of Bangkok’s main airports in November, scaring off tourists and contributing to an economic downturn.

Kasit Piromya was a regular speaker at PAD rallies and drew criticism for describing the week-long closure of the airports as “part of the democratic process”, joking about how good the music and food was that PAD provided for its activists.

Puea Thai also said Abhisit had used unspecified unconstitutional means to lure lawmakers in pro-Thaksin parties to support his nomination as prime minister in December.

“We believe those acts prove that Abhisit violated the Constitution,” said Peeraphan Paloosuk, one of the Puea Thai MPs who handed the motion to the Senate speaker.

Puea Thai will follow the impeachment motion with a censure debate. It will put forward the motion for that on Thurday. The actual debate is expected to take place on March 27.

The impeachment process could take months. The speaker of the Senate checks its validity before passing it on to the National Counter-Corruption Commission, which has to decide whether there are grounds to pursue it back in Parliament.

The parliamentary procedure could distract Abhisit and his Cabinet at a time when it should be concentrating on the economy, which experienced its worst contraction on record in the final quarter of 2008 and seems certain to enter recession this year.

Abhisit’s efforts to date have been broadly welcomed by economists and investors, although the stock market has fallen 7% this year, in line with global trends, and yields at the long end of the bond market have started to rise because of the extra bonds needed to fund stimulus measures.

Some measures, such as a 2 000 baht handout to low earners, have been criticised by the opposition as populist gestures aimed at winning votes as much as supporting the economy.

Both the government and the central bank have warned that unemployment could double this year to one million, 2,8% of the workforce, because of the slump in export demand, lower commodity prices and a drop in the number of tourists.—Reuters



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