Thailand’s anti-corruption agency on Tuesday indicted 250 former MPs for alleged unconstitutional behavior in attempting to amend a charter. This move comes less than a month after former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was barred from politics over her rice subsidy scandal. Yingluck and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra were both tremendously popular during their terms and still remain so today, but experts say that this indictment would further erode the enduring influence of the Shinawatra family in the country.
"We have found 250 MPs guilty of acting unconstitutionally. We will forward the case for impeachment to the national legislature," Wicha Mahakun, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission told reporters, according to Reuters. Wicha said that the NACC would forward the case to be decided by the country’s National Legislative Assembly, just as Yingluck’s case was.
The commission originally accused 269 ex-MPs for attempting to amend a charter bill after they had already submitted it for a first reading to the House, according to the Bangkok Post. The bill concerned a 2013 proposal by lawmakers from the Puea Thai Party to make the Senate fully elected, which NACC President Panthep Klanarongran had said was unconstitutional as it violated Section 68 of the former charter that prohibited attempts to overthrow the monarchy and efforts to seize power, according to the Bangkok Post. The 250 indicted lawmakers, of which 223 were from the Puea Thai Party that Yingluck and her brother belonged to, could face a five-year ban from politics if the NLA found them guilty too.
"The NACC is forwarding the case to the military-dominated NLA. Thus we see here how the judiciary and the military cooperate to boost an arch-royalist agenda," Paul Chambers, Institute of South East Asian Affairs research director at the Chiang Mai University, told Reuters. He added that the case was an attempt to destroy the Shinawatra family and their allies, and that banning the former MPs would be a serious blow to the Puea Thai Party ahead of the 2016 general elections. Over half of the 220-member NLA positions are currently held by military and police officers installed by the ruling junta.
The Shinawatra family's popularity among voters persists even after former PM Yingluck was indicted by the NLA on Feb. 19 over her involvement in a rice subsidy scandal. Yingluck’s government was overthrown in a military coup in May last year led by then-general Prayuth Chan-ocha, who forms the junta government now. Her brother Thaksin was a former Prime Minister too and though he is currently exiled, his popularity in the country remains.