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September 21, 2017

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Thailand court sets date to rule on possible dismissal of prime minister

BANGKOK--Thailand's Constitutional Court said it will rule on Wednesday whether to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office on abuse of power charges, a verdict that could plunge the country deeper into crisis.

The premier appeared at the court on Tuesday to deny the allegation, filed by a group of senators who said that then-national security chief Thawil Pliensri was replaced after her 2011 election for the benefit of her party.

But the court's president Charoon Intachan said the nine-member bench had heard enough evidence and was ready to rule.

"The hearing is over... the court has decided to rule on May 7 at noon," he said.

The case, one of two potential knockout legal moves against her premiership, comes as Thailand's political crisis reaches a critical juncture.

Anti-government protesters are still massed on Bangkok's streets — although in diminished numbers — and Yingluck's supporters are also threatening to rally to defend her.

"I didn't violate any laws, I didn't receive any benefit from the appointment," a composed Yingluck told the court.

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

The court could also extend its verdict to cabinet members who endorsed the decision to remove Thawil, potentially dislodging a layer of ruling party decision-makers with ties to Thaksin, who lives overseas to avoid jail for corruption convictions.

Pro-government "Red Shirts" have vowed to defend Yingluck from being toppled and any decision to remove the premier will

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