PM faces removal bid over minister’s appointment

The country’s Constitutional Court accepted a complaint seeking to remove Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin from office for giving a ministerial position to a former lawyer with a criminal conviction.

Srettha was not suspended from duty pending a verdict in the case, as had been sought by a group of senators who had complained that last month’s appointment to his Cabinet of Pichit Chuenban was a violation of the constitution.

Pichit resigned on Tuesday in an effort to insulate Srettha from the court case.

The decision will be a blow to a government that has seen three ministers quit in recent weeks, while it battles to jumpstart an under-performing economy and ensure it has the funds to deliver on a delayed election promise of cash handouts for 50 million people. The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pichit has long been a close aide of the billionaire Shinawatra family, whose parties have won all but one election in the past two decades.

Pichit was jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after an alleged attempt to bribe court officials with 2 million baht hidden in a paper grocery bag. His law license was suspended for five years after the incident.

The 40 senators said the Srettha violated the constitution by appointing Pichit, who lacks integrity and ethical standards required by the constitution to hold a ministerial position.

The government has said it had carefully vetted Pichit’s qualifications and was confident it could defend his appointment in court.

Its critics say Pichit got the job due to his close relationship with Thaksin, who has been a towering figure in Thailand for more than two decades. — Reuters

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