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Thai PM fired over cookery show

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  • Thai court fires PM Sundaravej for violating constitution
  • Sundaravej participated in television cooking show
  • Ministers in Thailand are barred from working for private companies
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Thailand's Constitutional Court Tuesday fired the country's prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, for violating the constitution by hosting a TV cooking show while in office.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej talks with a market vendor on Monday in Udon Thani province.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej talks with a market vendor on Monday in Udon Thani province.

Tuesday's ruling against Sundaravej, who has faced weeks of violent street protests, also forces the resignation of his cabinet.

Ministers are barred from working for private companies, and Samak's opponents filed the case hoping that a conviction will compel him to step down.

In theory, analysts say, Samak can return as prime minister in days -- if the ruling coalition nominates him again and a parliament vote is taken.

Samak appeared in court Monday, and argued that he had not violated any rules.

His work for the television company, he said, was as a freelancer and not an employee. Further, he said, the show was not on the air any more and that he received just $2,300 for his appearances.

The 73-year-old Samak continued to appear sporadically on the show "Tasting while Grumbling" after he became prime minister in February. On the show, he served up personal favorites and dished on topics that struck his fancy. Video Watch CNN's Dan Rivers on latest crisis for Thai PM »

Soon after taking office, he told CNN that he was no reason to halt his participation.

"Somebody says as a prime minister, I have time, but I should not do such a thing like that. I said, 'No, I checked the constitution already. There's no obstruction with that,'" he said.

Professor Suchit Bunbongkarn, an expert on the constitution, said the document clearly bans prime ministers from being employed by a private entity.

"It depends on the constitutional court to decide whether receiving money to appear in the programs on the television could be considered an employee of any employer or not," he said.

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The court case is another attempt by Samak's opponents who have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at him.

Samak was already facing charges of corruption, appealing a three-year prison sentence for defaming a deputy governor and dealing with an election commission decision last week that his party committed electoral fraud in the December elections and should be dissolved.

In addition, thousands of protesters have camped outside the Government House, the government's headquarters -- blocking Samak from entering since August 26.

The protesters are demanding that Samak step down. They accuse him of being a proxy for his ousted predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Samak has strongly denied the allegation and has refused to resign.

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On Tuesday, he declared a state of emergency in the capital city of Bangkok after overnight clashes between his supporters and anti-government demonstrators that wounded 40 and left one person dead.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) -- which is heading the protests -- contends Samak is trying to amend the constitution so Thaksin does not have to face charges. Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, returned to England last month just as he was to appear in court in a corruption case.

CNN's Dan Rivers contributed to this report.

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