In Thailand, all roads lead to the Palace

In Thailand, all roads lead to the Palace
An anti-government protester waving a national flag in front of a picture of King Bhumibol Adulyadej at a protest outside Voice TV, a TV station belonging to Thaksin's son, in Bangkok in February.

Thailand's embattled government may appeal to the King for a solution if an imminent court judgment forces Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her caretaker Cabinet to resign, on the basis that it was the monarch who issued the routine royal command to form a government, after the 2011 elections.

The idea, formally suggested by the government's Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) on Thursday, is seen as an attempted checkmate to the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) - widely believed to be backed by Bangkok's old royalist elites who detest the Prime Minister's brother Thaksin Shinawatra, believing his popularity and ambition constitute a threat to the monarchy.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban has said if the Prime Minister has to resign, he will claim a power vacuum and take the name of a new interim premier to the King.

Petitions to King Bhumibol Adulyadej are nothing new, says Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Watanayagorn. It is also not unusual for petitions to be sent back by the office of the King.

He said: "Suthep has some right to submit a name." But he added: "That would amount to a coup by Suthep and his people."

As for the government's proposed move, it would be a departure from convention.

"The common practice is political parties agree on something before they take it to the King for his approval. You don't want to put the King or the Palace in an awkward situation; that is acknowledged by most political leaders.

"The King has said he does not want to get involved in politics, and he will not do anything beyond the Constitution," said Professor Panitan.

The Constitutional Court is expected to hand down a verdict on a complaint against Ms Yingluck related to the transfer of a top bureaucrat in 2011, by the end of the month. It is widely expected to go against the Premier.

On Thursday, the Capo, headed by Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, said the court would be overstepping its authority if it dismissed the entire Cabinet or suggested a new premier.

Meanwhile, political parties are set to meet the Election Commission next Tuesday to discuss holding another election. The commission has thus far been reluctant to set a date in the current highly charged political climate.

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