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Thai anti-graft panel to charge hundreds of MPs
January 07, 2014 , 5 : 20 pm GST
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Anti-government protesters march during a rally in central Bangkok. Photo - Reuters
Thailand's anti-graft panel said on Tuesday it would press charges against hundreds of politicians, mostly from the party of embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, over a failed attempt to amend the constitution.
The ruling adds to the political uncertainty in the kingdom, where the main opposition party is boycotting February elections called by Yingluck in an unsuccessful attempt to end weeks of mass anti-government protests.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) — whose mandate includes investigating possible abuse of power — cleared 73 politicians including Yingluck of wrongdoing in connection with a bid to make the senate, the legislature's upper house, fully elected.
But 308 others from the upper and lower houses were found to have violated the law, based on a preliminary investigation, by drafting or proposing changes to the charter, panel spokesman Vicha Mahakun told reporters.
If officially found guilty their cases will be sent to the upper house of parliament, which has the power to ban them from politics for five years.
Yingluck's supporters see the case as one of a number of political manoeuvres aimed at removing her Puea Thai party from power.
Protesters seeking to curb the political dominance of the premier's billionaire family have vowed to block the February 2 election. They have the support of many in the kingdom's elite.
The demonstrators want an unelected "people's council" to run the country to oversee vague reforms, such as an end to alleged "vote buying" through populist policies, before new elections are held.
They are threatening to "shut down" Bangkok from January 13.
Thailand has been periodically convulsed by political bloodshed since Yingluck's older brother Thaksin
Shinawatra was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup in 2006.
Eight people have been killed and about 400 wounded in recent street violence.
Legal rulings have played an important role in politically turbulent Thailand in the past, and Yingluck's opponents fear her party could fall victim to another judicial or military coup.
The attempt to reform the senate would have returned it to its pre-coup structure — something observers say the establishment wants to avoid, to limit Thaksin's electoral dominance.
Yingluck's government still enjoys strong support in the north and northeast of the country and is expected to win the February polls if they go ahead.
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