Bangkok Post – Thai court sets July 24 as next hearing date for prime minister’s impeachment case

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, center, joins then Prime Minister’s Office Minister Pichit Chuenban at Government House in Bangkok in April. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

BANGKOK – Thailand’s Constitutional Court set Wednesday July 24 as the next hearing date for a case to dismiss Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin as it seeks more evidence.

The court said earlier this month that the case would reach a verdict before September.

“The court is calling for more information including evidence and from people previously summoned,” it said in a statement.

The case against Srettha was initiated following a complaint by 40 military-appointed senators in May, which was then upheld by the Constitutional Court.

The case seeks to impeach the prime minister over the appointment of a lawyer, Pichit Chuenban, who served jail time for contempt of court. The complaint alleges that Pichit did not meet moral and ethical standards for ministers as defined in the constitution.

Pichit has since resigned and Mr Srettha denies any wrongdoing.

Link to Thaksin

Pichit was sentenced to six months in prison in 2008 along with two colleagues after they tried to bribe Supreme Court officials by giving them a paper bag containing 2 million baht. He is considered unfit by critics to serve as a minister.

Before Pichit got the government post, he was an advisor to Mr. Srettha. But long before that, Pichit was former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyer in the “lunchbox cash” scandal and served a prison sentence for trying to bribe the Supreme Court.

On 25 June 2008, the Supreme Court sentenced Pichit and two of his colleagues to prison after they had attempted to bribe Supreme Court officials by giving them a lunch box containing a paper bag containing 2 million baht in cash two weeks earlier.

All three represented Thaksin and his ex-wife Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra in the Ratchadaphisek land purchase case, for which Thaksin was sentenced to two years in prison in 2008.

At the time, Thaksin was accused of abusing his authority as prime minister to facilitate his then-wife Khunying Potjaman’s purchase of 33 rai of land on Thiam Ruam Mit Road in the Ratchadaphisek area from the Bank of Thailand’s Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) at a discounted price of 772 million baht in 2003.

He was supposed to lead by example, to uphold the code of ethics of such a trusted position, the Supreme Court said at the time.

If Mr Srettha, a political newcomer, is ousted from office, a new government would have to be formed and his ruling Pheu Thai party would have to put forward a new prime minister candidate to be voted on by parliament.

The case against the prime minister is being investigated alongside another complaint calling for the dissolution of the opposition Move Forward Party, the surprise winners of last year’s election and the largest party in parliament.

Move Forward was blocked from forming a government by the military-appointed Senate.

The two cases have increased political uncertainty in the kingdom, analysts say.

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