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Thai PM guilty, told to abandon her office

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

BANGKOK — A Thai court ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down on Wednesday as a result of finding her guilty of abuse of power, prolonging a political crisis that has led to violent protests and brought the economy close to recession.

The decision is bound to anger supporters of Yingluck, but the court did allow ministers not implicated in the case against her to stay in office, a decision that could take some of the sting out of any backlash on the streets.

After the ruling, the cabinet said Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who is also a deputy prime minister, would replace Yingluck, and the caretaker government would press ahead with plans for an election on July 20.

“The caretaker government's responsibility now is to organize an election as soon as possible,” said Niwatthamrong, a former executive in a company owned by Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother and himself a former prime minister who was ousted by the military in 2006.

“I hope the political situation will not heat up after this,” Niwatthamrong said of the court ruling.

Thailand's protracted political crisis broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a 2008 jail sentence for abuse of power.

Despite Yingluck's removal from power, there is no obvious end in sight to the turmoil in Thailand, with protesters opposed to Yingluck and her government still pushing for political reforms before new elections.

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