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Protests continue as Thai court acquits PM of ethics violations

THAILAND’S Constitutional Court acquitted Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of ethics breaches today – but the burgeoning protest movement against his government and the monarchy showed no sign of abating.

The former commander-in-chief of the royal army, who seized power in a military coup in May 2014, was accused by the Pheu Thai party – whose last two administrations were both ousted in coups – of violating ethical standards by continuing to live in his military residence after retiring from his army post in September 2014.

The complaint alleged that he broke constitutional articles barring government ministers from receiving special benefits from state agencies or enterprises because that would amount to a conflict of interest, but the court ruled that top brass are allowed to maintain army housing after retirement in recognition of their service.

Yet protests that have rocked the country for months, demanding a reduction in the power of the monarchy – which is accused of facilitating Thailand’s frequent military coups whenever elected governments threaten the interests of the elite – continued with a mass rally condemning the court’s verdict.

Protesters are demanding constitutional changes that would keep the country’s unpopular King Vajiralongkorn, who has been criticised for spending most of his time in an Alpine palace in Germany, out of politics and amend rules that they say favoured Mr Prayuth’s party in the first post-coup elections, which were held last year.

“Thailand’s justice system has completely lost its integrity. The court’s verdict tomorrow shows they look down on the people,” protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak said. He predicted that the verdict would simply fuel larger protests.

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