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New twist in Thai politics

January 7, 2014

Thailand faces more uncertainty ahead of an election unwanted by the opposition after its anti-graft panel ruled that hundreds of pro-government politicians acted illegally during a failed bid to amend the constitution.

Thailand Premierministerin Yingluck Shinawatra Pressekonferenz
Image: Reuters

Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission said Tuesday it would press charges against 308 politicians, mostly from the party of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (pictured above).

If convicted, they could be banned from politics for five years.

Shinawatra's scheduling of an early parliamentary election on February 2 is being challenged by the opposition Democratic Party and an allied protest movement which instead wants electoral reforms.

Commission spokesman Vicha Mahakun said the findings were based on preliminary investigations against the politicians from Thailand's upper and lower houses of parliament. The commission did not explain its ruling.

Last November, Thailand's Constitutional Court rejected the ruling party's bid to turn parliament's upper house into an all-elected body of senators.

Instead, the court ruled that procedural errors had occurred and that critics had not been given sufficient speaking time during debate in the lower house where Yingluck has an absolute majority. Thailand's courts are traditionally conservative and royalist.

Only doing 'their job'

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the premier's Puea Thai party, Anusorn lamsa-ard, said those politicians under investigation had only being doing "their job" by passing legislation. Most were planning to run in the upcoming election, he added.

Since November anti-government protesters, which have the backing of many in the kingdom's middle class and elite, have demanded that no election be held until electoral reforms are made to curtail advantages attributed to the wealthy Shinawatra family.

Yingluck's older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was overthrown as premier by royalist generals in a coup in 2006 and lives in exile to avoid a jail term. Parties affiliated with Thaksin have consistently won national elections since 2001. Yingluck was swept to power in a 2011 general election.

'Warm-up' protest in Bangkok

Thousands of anti-government protesters held a "warm-up" march on Tuesday in Bangkok. Their movement has threatened to "shut down" the capital from January 13.

Security officials said Yingluck was ready to declare a state of emergency next week if necessary. On Tuesday, she dismissed rumors of a new coup, saying "military commanders will think of long-term solutions rather than employing various measures unacceptable in many countries."

Recent street violence claimed eight lives and left 400 people injured.

Yingluck's government enjoys strong support in Thailand's rural north and northeast.

ipj/pfd(AFP, AP)

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