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Government corruption torments this Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian nation and is frequently exposed in front-page scandals that occasionally come to trial, with mixed results.

“Taking action against corrupt state agencies is a problem, when the private sector is reluctant to provide confirmation of the kickback demand,” Mr. Abhisit said July 16, responding to separate complaints by the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade about government officials demanding bribes from private companies.

“The private sector appears submissive and tolerant of the acts, rather than risking putting itself at odds with state agencies by pointing the finger at them,” the prime minister said.

The 2007 Political Act was created by a coup-installed junta, and initially used to punish former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in September 2006 in a bloodless military putsch.

Mr. Thaksin argued against the law being used retroactively, but the Constitutional Court disagreed. In 2007, the court disbanded his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party and barred Mr. Thaksin and 110 of his party’s politicians from office for five years.

In 2008, the Constitutional Court ousted Mr. Thaksin’s ally, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, for a conflict of interest: He was simultaneously illegally “employed” — hosting a TV cooking show.

In a separate 2008 case, the court disbanded the People Power Party, which had been led by Mr. Samak and taken over by another Thaksin ally, Somchai Wongsawat, who became prime minister when Mr. Samak fell.

The court also dissolved two smaller coalition parties for electoral fraud committed in a December 2007 election, and banned 109 politicians for five years, including Mr. Somchai, resulting in yet another government’s collapse.

That allowed Mr. Abhisit and his Democrat Party to convince members of parliament that they should form a coalition with him as prime minister.

Though he had been elected to parliament, Mr. Abhisit never won a nationwide election, prompting pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters to demand a vote because they think Mr. Thaksin and his allies remain Thailand’s most popular politicians.