Embattled Thai ministers stay in jobs for now
Thursday, 31 July 2008

BANGKOK, Tue Jul 29, (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Three Thai cabinet ministers facing a criminal lawsuit will stay in their jobs for now, pending advice from the government's legal experts, one of the ministers said on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear accusations that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ministers infringed lottery laws in 2003.

Among them are current Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee, Labour Minister Uraiwan Thienthong and Deputy Transport Minister Anurak Jureemas

"The cabinet has instructed the Council of State to find a quick recommendation for these ministers," Anurak Jureemas told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, could take two weeks to come up with a set of recommendations for the ministers, who can stay put and work on for now, its chief, Pornthip Jala, told reporters.

The ministers themselves argue there is no requirement under the constitution for them to step down.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, in power for six months and close to Thaksin, has already lost two ministers after court verdicts this month.

A number of other cases are still to be heard, arising from the recommendations of an anti-graft committee set up under the army-controlled government formed after Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Late on Tuesday, the Pue Pandin (For the Motherland) party, with 24 seats in parliament, said it was pulling out of the ruling coalition on the grounds that it disagreed with the main party's efforts to amend the constitution and its handling of a border row with Cambodia.

The coalition still has a large majority in parliament.

The coalition has also been undermined by prolonged street protests.

Thailand's stock market has fallen more than 20 percent since the protests started on May 25. Political jitters were cited as a factor behind a 1.3 percent fall on Tuesday.

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