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Thailand foreign minister resigns over UNESCO heritage site flap

Thailand's foreign minister resigned Thursday after being accused of jeopardizing the country's claims to land near an ancient Cambodian temple.

Thailand's foreign minister resigned Thursday after being accused of jeopardizing the country's claims to land near an ancient Cambodian temple.

The Thai Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that Noppadon Pattama acted unconstitutionally when he endorsed Cambodia's application to have the Preah Vihear temple registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site without first consulting Parliament on the matter. Critics fear the endorsement undermines Thailand's claim to land near the temple, which is on the Thai-Cambodian border.

"Even though I did not do anything wrong, I would like to show responsibility by resigning," Noppadon Pattama said. "I would like to insist that the action of the ministry did not compromise Thailand's sovereignty." 

He also denied anti-government protesters' claims that he endorsed Cambodia's UNESCO bid in exchange for business concessions.

Government officials embroiled in court cases

Several high-profile court rulings this week have targeted top officials in the troubled five-month-old government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The Constitutional Court disqualified Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsup from office Wednesday, for violating asset disclosure rules by failing to fully declare his wife's shareholdings.

In another case, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for Wattana Asavahame, chairman of one of the coalition parties, after he failed to appear in court to hear a verdict on corruption charges against him over a water treatment project.

And on Tuesday, the Supreme Court banned former parliamentary speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat from politics for five years for electoral fraud. 

As the court cases have been unfolding, demonstrators have disrupted traffic in pockets of the capital daily since May demanding that the prime minister and his government resign, calling the regime a proxy for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a 2006 military coup and is now facing charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Samak denies the accusation, saying the protesters are trying to undermine his democratically elected government.

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