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May 29, 2017

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Thai prime minister given more time in crucial case

BANGKOK--Thailand's Constitutional Court on Wednesday gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra more time to submit her defense against allegations of abuse of power which could see her removed from office.

The premier, who has faced a series of legal challenges to her tenure as well as months of sometimes violent anti-government street protests, must give her defense by May 2, the court said in a statement.

The case pivots on the transfer of then-national security chief Thawil Pliensri after Yingluck was elected in 2011.

A group of senators filed a complaint to the court over Thawil's transfer, saying it was carried out for the benefit of Yingluck's party.

Under the constitution — drawn up after a 2006 coup that ousted Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra as premier — such an offence could lead to her sacking.

The court granted Yingluck's request for a 15-day extension — starting from last Friday, when she made the application — and said it "will hear four more witnesses on May 6" including Yingluck and Thawil.

But the statement did not indicate when the court may deliver its ruling.

'Red Shirt' Poet Killed

On Wednesday afternoon Kamol Duangpasuk — a pro-government "Red Shirt" poet and critic of Thailand's controversial royal defamation laws — was shot dead in front of a Bangkok restaurant, according to local police.

But officers could not immediately confirm if the murder of the 44-year-old poet, also known by his pen name Mainueng Kor Kuntee, was politically motivated.

Kamol was a strong opponent of Thailand's lese majeste law, which provides up to 15 years in prison for anyone who defames the country's monarchy. A newly formed vigilante group has threatened to hunt down people who oppose the monarchy, describing them as trash.

Kamol's poetry had a hard political edge, and he advocated that the Red Shirts organize in a military fashion at the local level in order to protect Yingluck's government. Yingluck faces court rulings that could force her from office, in what her supporters call a "judicial coup."

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