Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban. Pic: AP.

Charging 308 lawmakers with abuse of power is aimed at thwarting an election, not justice, reports Asia Sentinel

The decision by Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission Tuesday to charge 308 lawmakers with abuse of power, most of them from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ’s embattled Pheu Thai Party, demonstrates how thoroughly the country’s Bangkok elites control the sinews of power.The decision by Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission Tuesday to charge 308 lawmakers with abuse of power, most of them from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ’s embattled Pheu Thai Party, demonstrates how thoroughly the country’s Bangkok elites control the sinews of power.

They have used the country’s courts repeatedly to accomplish what they can’t at the voting booth, an act made doubly cynical by the fact that the very real corruption charges against politicians in surrogate parties established by allies of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra could be made against virtually any member of the political factions seeking to oust him.

The current charges revolve around what appear to be legitimate votes in the Thai parliament to change the composition of the Senate to make it more democratic – and, of course, to consolidate power for the Thaksin forces. There wasn’t enough evidence to charge Yingluck and 72 other lawmakers, the court said.

Courts have thwarted Thaksin’s allies going back to 2007, when his Thai Rak Thai Party was ordered dissolved by the Constitutional Court of Thailand on allegations of violations of electoral laws during a snap election. Thaksin had been forced from power eight months earlier in a military coup.

Although the court at that point banned 111 former Thai Rak Thai Party members, including Thaksin, from participating in politics for five years, the remaining members reorganized into a new People’s Power Party controlled by Thaksin, which handily won new elections in December 2007 and formed a coalition government.

Five months later, however, the courts ordered the PPP’s deputy leader, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, banned from politics for five years on charges of buying votes. Another court removed another party leader from power on charges of concealing his wife’s assets.

Then, on July 8, 2008, the Constitutional Court threw out the entire Thai Rak Thai cabinet allegedly for failing to ask parliamentary approval for a bilateral agreement with Cambodia over the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Temple, which both countries claimed as theirs.

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