World Bulletin / News Desk
Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has lambasted Thailand's military rulers for banning her from political activities for the next five years, calling the vote by a military-appointed assembly a "breach of democracy" and vowing to fight to "re-establish justice" in Thailand.
"I will fight until the end to prove my innocence," she wrote on her Facebook page, hours after the junta warned her to carefully consider her next move.
"All Thais have to unite and fight in order to re-establish democracy and justice in our society."
The former PM was impeached Friday by a 190-18 vote by the members of the national assembly, half of whom are active or retired military members. She was accused of dereliction of duty in relation to a loss-ridden rice-subsidies scheme, her critics alleging that she failed to stop the program when it became obvious that it was losing the state billions of dollars.
On Thursday, Yingluck -- the first premier in Thai history to be impeached -- defended herself against the charges, saying that the program improved the life of farmers and that the "benefits exceeded the disadvantages."
Immediately after the vote, military and police were dispatched to a Bangkok hotel where many of Yingluck’s supporters had gathered.
There, officials warned them about organizing a press conference. Later, a military spokesman said that the junta did not ban Yingluck from holding a press conference, but only "asked her to consider her move carefully."
Barely two hours before the impeachment vote, the office of the attorney general announced that it would file criminal charges against Yingluck in relation to the same rice-subsidies scheme.
"The attorney general’s office has considered witnesses and evidence submitted… and we agree that the case substantiates a criminal indictment charge against Yingluck," said Surasak Theerattrakul, an official at the attorney’s office.
If convicted, she could face a sentence of up to ten years in jail.
Analysts, on hearing of the impeachment, didn't think that that it would provoke a strong reaction from the supporters of the Shinawatra political clan -- led by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s elder brother -- be they members of the Puea Thai party led by Yingluck, or Red Shirts, the family's grassroots supporters.
Many analysts see the ban as little more than an attempt to keep Yingluck -- and Thaksin, who was himself ousted in a military coup in 2006 -- away from elections that they, or affiliates, have won for the past decade.
Michael Nelson, a sociologist who follows Thai politics, told The Anadolu Agency on Friday that members of the Puea Thai party have been very low key since the May 22, 2013 coup that removed Yingluck.
"Party leaders even said: ‘let the junta do what they want’," he said. "The Red Shirts are destined to remain quiet, because if they raise their heads they will be severely repressed," he warned.
On Wednesday, army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr had warned the movement not to take to the streets if the impeachment is approved, saying he would use martial law to counter them. On Thursday, he asked all Thais to accept the decision of the national assembly "whatever it is."
Gothom Arya, director of the Research Center for Peace at Thailand's Mahidol University, told AA that he didn't think that the impeachment itself would mobilize a large population.
"They will not go into the streets to defend Yingluck. It is a fait accompli," he underlined.
After the impeachment -- and with the prospect of soon-to-come criminal charges -- the future of the Shinawatra clan looks bleak.
"It is hard to see how the Shinawatra family can keep a role in politics. I am even not sure that they want to continue to have a role, especially with the criminal charge," Nelson said. "They may be too disillusioned about their future opportunities, and [instead] think ‘let’s go back to our business life’."
Forbes magazine has estimated that the family's business empire has earned them wealth of $1.7 billion, making them the 10th-richest in Thailand.Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2015, 23:12