View Full Version : Cooking show stint derails Thai prime minister

Deadly Sushi
09-09-2008, 07:45 PM
Wow! :huh:

BANGKOK, Thailand - A Thai court removed the prime minister Tuesday for taking pay to host a TV cooking show, setting off wild celebrations by protesters occupying his office compound. But rejoicing could be short-lived the ruling party vowed to put him back in power.

The Constitutional Court's ruling took Samak Sundaravej at least temporarily out of the cross-hairs of the People's Alliance for Democracy, a rightist movement that seized the Government House complex two weeks ago seeking to force the prime minister's resignation.
But the ruling seemed unlikely to end the political crisis brought on by the alliance's demands for a sea change in Thai politics, beginning with Samak's ouster and eventually moving Thailand away from democracy in favor of a mostly appointed legislature.
After the verdict, Samak's political party vowed to re-elect him as prime minister, as allowed by law.
Protesters said they would hold on to Government House while waiting to see who Parliament selects as prime minister, a vote expected Friday. If Samak or anyone tied to disgraced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is picked, the occupation will continue, alliance spokesman Suriyasai Katasila told The Associated Press.
The alliance and its sympathizers monarchists, the military and the urban elite call Samak a puppet of Thaksin, who was forced from office by an army coup in 2006 and recently fled to Britain to avoid corruption charges.
"If Samak comes back, the situation will absolutely get worse because the alliance might take further actions to put pressure on the government to resign," said Nakarin Mektrairat, dean of the political science faculty at Bangkok's Thammasat University.
In addition to occupying Government House, labor union allied with the protesters have disrupted some air and rail service.
The anti-Samak movement argues that Western-style one man, one vote democracy gives too much weight to Thailand's poor rural majority. It contends the poor are susceptible to vote buying and provide a solid political base for the forces represented by Thaksin and Samak.
For now, the 73-year-old Samak has been undone by being host on a popular TV cooking show, "Tasting and Complaining." He was host for seven years before becoming prime minister in January, but he made several appearances after taking office, which the court said violated a constitutional prohibition on private employment while in office.
"The defendant has violated Article 267 of the constitution, and his position as prime minister has ended," said Chat Chonlaworn, the court's chief justice who headed the nine-judge panel that issued the ruling.
Samak had no immediate comment on the ruling, and did not appear in public after the verdict. In his defense, he had argued he was not an employee of the company that made the show and only received payment for his transportation and the ingredients used for cooking.
The court said Samak's Cabinet would remain as a caretaker administration until Parliament fills the prime minister's post. That means the senior deputy prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, will serve as acting prime minister. He is Thaksin's brother-in-law.
Ji Ungpakorn, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, criticized the ruling as being out of proportion and said it aided the protesters.
"I think it is the role of judges to decide what is a serious issue, taking into account the spirit as well as the letter of the law," Ji said. "It is a minor issue being used against the government to attack it and manipulate it."
Ji said he doubted the protest alliance would voluntarily give up its struggle no matter how many of its demands are met. "They want to wreck Thai society to have their 'new order,'" he said.
The court's judgment, broadcast live on television and radio, was greeted with loud cheers and applause from several thousand demonstrators camping on the Government House grounds. Some people wept with emotion.

Suriyasai, the alliance spokesman, told the protesters that the ruling was "proof of our legitimacy in staging the rally against the government."
"We should continue our sacred duty because it's not yet done," he added. "We would like to warn the Parliament to endorse clean and decent individuals for the new Cabinet and to be the prime minister."
Suriyasai listed almost a dozen points supported by the alliance, touching on populist and nationalist themes, including safeguarding Thailand's territory and resources, prosecuting people who insult the monarchy, and halting the privatization of state enterprises.
The verdict gave a new twist to political uncertainty that began in early 2006 when the People's Alliance for Democracy was formed to demonstrate against Thaksin, accusing him of corruption.
Those relentless protests, spearheaded by media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul, culminated in the coup that ousted Thaksin.
But elections last December were won by Thaksin's allies in Samak's new People's Power Party, which then formed a coalition government with five other parties. That led to new demonstrations by the alliance.
___ Associated Press writers Grant Peck, Sutin Wannabovorn, Jocelyn Gecker and Vijay Joshi contributed to this report.