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What next for crisis-gripped Thailand?

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Deposed Thai PM faces impeachment

A day after a court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (below) from power, another political crisis gripped Thailand yesterday, as an anti-graft body ruled that she should face impeachment proceedings.

Here are three possible scenarios — from an unlikely deal between Thailand’s bitterly divided political camps, to a military coup.

Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra


Will Ms Yingluck be banned from politics?

Ms Yingluck, deposed on Wednesday by the Constitutional Court, could theoretically return as prime minister if her Puea Thai party wins elections slated for July 20.

But a huge question mark looms over this, after an anti-graft panel ruled that she should face impeachment proceedings in the upper house of parliament. It could see her banned from politics for five years.

To Puea Thai’s relief, the graft panel said it would not extend its probe to the rest of the caretaker cabinet — a move that would have sent the kingdom spinning into an even deeper crisis, AFP reported.


Could there be a military coup?

Anti-government protesters have vowed massive action today, while Ms Yingluck’s Red Shirt supporters plan a major rally in Bangkok tomorrow.

In the event of violent clashes on the streets or widespread action by the Reds in their rural strongholds, the army could step in.

There have been 18 successful or attempted coups since 1932.

Thailand’s army has declined to make such a move during the last six months of chaotic protests, even as political violence has at times threatened to spiral out of control.

Red Shirt chairman Jatuporn Prompan said yesterday that he feared a coup was “unavoidable”.


Could both sides agree on a “neutral” prime minister?

In the final scenario, Puea Thai and the opposition could agree to nominate a “neutral” prime minister belonging to neither side.

Interim Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan could “ultimately resign as part of an elite compromise in preparation for reforms before elections”, suggested Mr Paul Chambers of the Institute of South

East Asian Affairs at Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand.

Analysts have agonised in recent weeks over a suitable compromise premier – but have failed to come up with any plausible candidates.

With the two sides bitterly divided, this seems the least likely scenario.

Scensing victory, anti-government protesters refuse to budge on their insistence that the government be replaced with an unelected “people’s council” with an appointed prime minister at its head.

Mr Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said some form of compromise was needed to bring the crisis to an end.

The Red Shirts must accept that Ms Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra — adored by the rural poor for his populist policies before he too was deposed (in 2006), but reviled by the opposition — is “not the answer for Thailand”.

Said Mr Thitinan: “If they can both realise that, then somehow we can navigate a way forward.”