World

Protests after Thai PM found not guilty in conflict of interest case

He was accused of conflict of interest for staying in military housing after retirement

BANGKOK: Thailand's constitutional court unanimously ruled in favour of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday in a conflict-of-interest case brought by opposition politicians.

Mr Prayut was accused of a conflict of interest because he remained in military housing despite his retirement from the army in 2014, months after overthrowing an elected government.

Mr Prayut has said he needed to stay there for security reasons.

The court said the former army chief's stay in the residence was in line with the army's rules, and the safety of the prime minister and his family was the government's priority.

The "not guilty" verdict for Mr Prayut means that he can stay in power.

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

Hours before the verdict, he told a supporter while on a trip outside Bangkok: "It's about destiny. Everything has been pre-destined. I'm not too worried. I believe in my own goodness."

TABOOS

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

About 3,000 protesters gathered for a fresh rally at a major intersection in northern Bangkok yesterday.

They included uniformed high school students wearing hair clips in the shape of rubber ducks, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement.

"I'm not surprised because I think the court received the directive from the top. The court is not fair," Ms Reeda, 26, a graduate student, told AFP as demonstrators gathered at Lat Phrao intersection.

"In the past they always (make) decisions that contrast with the feelings of the people."

Protesters sang the national anthem while showing the three-finger salute they have adopted from the movie The Hunger Games.

Many clapped and cheered as one protester impersonated Mr Prayut on a stage set up to look like a courtroom.

"The court verdict shows that this country no longer has rule of law. If there is no justice, don't ask for peace," the protester said. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD