Thai court due to give PM conflict of interest ruling

FILE PHOTO: Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends an agreement signing ceremony for purchase of AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine at Government House, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bangkok, Thailand November 27, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa/Pool

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's constitutional court is due to rule on Wednesday whether there was a conflict of interest in Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha staying in an army residence after retiring, in a case brought by opposition politicians.

A ruling against Prayuth could ultimately force him to relinquish power, although the court has consistently given rulings in his favour since he overthrew an elected government in 2014.

The court's decision comes with tension high after months of protests to demand his removal - a call he has rejected.

Prayuth said this week that he would respect the constitutional court's ruling.

"Guilty means guilty, not guilty means not guilty. It's like any other cases. I'll respect the verdict," he said.

Opposition parliamentarians filed a petition that it constituted a conflict of interest for Prayuth to have remained in military housing after his retirement from the army in 2014. Prayuth has said he needs to stay there for security reasons.

Protesters and other critics accuse Prayuth of engineering elections last year to keep hold of power. He says the vote was fair.

A protest movement that began in July to seek Prayuth's removal and to call for a new constitution has also broken taboos by demanding reforms to the monarchy to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Another protest is planned for Wednesday. Initially it had been due to take place at the Constitutional Court, but the venue was moved to a less sensitive location.

A court ruling is expected after 3 p.m. (0800 GMT).

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Martin Petty)

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