Assembly votes against impeaching 248 ex-lawmakers for trying to change Thailand's charter



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BANGKOK — Thailand's legislature voted Friday against impeaching 248 members of the previous Parliament, sparing them a ban from politics for trying to amend the constitution.

The National Legislative Assembly, appointed after a military coup last year, rejected a recommendation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. The commission said the former lawmakers' effort in 2013 to make the Senate an all-elected body constituted abuse of power and thus warranted impeachment and a ban from future political office.

The impeachment attempt had been seen as an effort to cripple the Pheu Thai party, the political base of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a 2006 coup and whose sister led Thailand's last elected government. Most of the 248 were members of Pheu Thai, with about 30 others from other parties that were part of the then-ruling government coalition.

The proposed change in the constitution was one of the reasons used by Thaksin's opponents in late 2013 to stage sometimes-violent street demonstrations seeking to force his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down. She was forced out of office last year by a separate court decision, and the army — which remains hostile to Thaksin — toppled her government in a coup shortly afterward.

Yingluck was impeached in January in connection with a subsidy scheme for rice farmers, barring her from politics for five years. Thaksin is in exile, having fled the country in 2010 to avoid a prison sentence on a corruption-related charge he insists was engineered by his political foes, jealous of his popularity.

The courts and the military, two pillars of the conservative Thai establishment, have consistently acted to put pressure on Thaksin's political machine, which has delivered convincing victories in all national elections since 2001.

The anti-Thaksin efforts have eased recently as the army consolidates its rule over the country, seeking to achieve a measure of reconciliation while putting in safeguards against a comeback by Thaksin. It has been pushing a new constitution that would limit the power of political parties, while suggesting a new election won't take place until 2017.

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