- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BANGKOK | A Thai court removed the prime minister Tuesday for taking pay to host a TV cooking show, setting off wild celebrations by protesters occupying his office compound. But rejoicing could be short-lived — the ruling party vowed to put him back in power.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling took People’s Alliance for Democracy, a rightist movement that seized the Government House complex two weeks ago seeking to force the prime minister’s resignation.

But the ruling seemed unlikely to end the political crisis brought on by the alliance’s demands for a sea change in Thai politics, beginning with Mr. Samak’s ouster and eventually moving Thailand away from democracy in favor of a mostly appointed legislature.

After the verdict, Mr. Samak’s People’s Power Party vowed to re-elect him as prime minister, as allowed by law.

Protesters said they would hold on to Government House while waiting to see who parliament selects as prime minister, a vote expected Friday. If Mr. Samak or anyone tied to disgraced former Suriyasai Katasila said.

The alliance and its sympathizers — monarchists, the military and the urban elite — call Mr. Samak a puppet of Mr. Thaksin, who was forced from office by an army coup in 2006 and recently fled to Britain to avoid corruption charges.

For now, Mr. Samak has been undone by being host on a popular TV cooking show, “Tasting and Complaining.” He was host for seven years before becoming prime minister in January, but he made several appearances after taking office, which the court said violated a constitutional prohibition on private employment while in office.

“The defendant has violated Article 267 of the constitution, and his position as prime minister has ended,” said Chat Chonlaworn, the court’s chief justice who headed the nine-judge panel that issued the ruling.

Mr. Samak had no immediate comment on the ruling, and did not appear in public after the verdict. In his defense, he had argued he was not an employee of the company that made the show and only received payment for his transportation and the ingredients used for cooking.

The court said Somchai Wongsawat, will serve as acting prime minister. He is Mr. Thaksin’s brother-in-law.

The court’s judgment, broadcast live on television and radio, was greeted with loud cheers and applause from several thousand demonstrators camping on the Government House grounds.

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