248 for­mer Thai law­mak­ers sur­vive im­peach­ment vote


Thai­land’s junta-picked par­lia­ment Fri­day voted against im­peach­ing 248 ex-law­mak­ers in a rare re­prieve for a party that was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously kicked out of of­fice af­ter last year’s coup.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the for­mer Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPs) fac­ing an im­peach­ment vote hailed from the Pheu Thai party of ousted premier Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra, which has been left pow­er­less and si­lenced since the gen­er­als seized power.

The rub­ber stamp Na­tional Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly (NLA) had pushed a retroac­tive im­peach­ment of the MPs over a 2013 at­tempt to make the up­per house a fully elected cham­ber, a move that was later deemed un­con­sti­tu­tional in the courts.

A suc­cess­ful im­peach­ment would have seen the ex-law­mak­ers banned from pol­i­tics for five years and de­liv­ered a ham­mer blow to Pheu Thai’s po­lit­i­cal for­tunes if the mil­i­tary hands back power to civil­ians, as it has promised to do so next year.

It re­quired 132 out of 220 assem­bly mem­bers to vote in fa­vor.

But when the re­sults came, the thresh­old had not been met for any of the MPs.

“The Na­tional Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly re­solves not to im­peach,” Peerasak Por­jit, the sec­ond vice pres­i­dent for the leg­is­la­ture, told del­e­gates af­ter the re­sults for each ex-MP had been read out in­di­vid­u­ally.

A sim­i­lar move ear­lier this year to pun­ish a group of sen­a­tors who sup­ported the same bill also failed to win enough votes, and few observers were ex­pect­ing a new set of mass im­peach­ments over the same is­sue.

Yingluck has been less for­tu­nate. In Jan­uary she was retroac­tively im­peached over her ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pop­u­lar but eco­nom­i­cally dis­as­trous rice sub­sidy scheme.

She also faces sep­a­rate crim­i­nal neg­li­gence charges over cor­rup­tion within that scheme, which could see her jailed for up to ten years.

Thai­land’s gen­er­als say their May 2014 coup was nec­es­sary to re­store or­der af­ter months of of­ten vi­o­lent anti-Yingluck protests par­a­lyzed Bangkok.

But crit­ics say it was the latest at­tempt to claw back power from the Shi­nawa­tra fam­ily for the king­dom’s elites and their sup­port­ers in the mil­i­tary and ju­di­ciary.

Un­der mil­i­tary rule, civil­ian par­ties are ef­fec­tively banned from gath­er­ing or op­er­at­ing.

The mil­i­tary takeover last year was the latest cri­sis in a king­dom that has been riven by bit­ter po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions since 2006, when Yingluck’s brother Thaksin was ousted in an ear­lier army coup, backed by Bangkok’s roy­al­ist es­tab­lish­ment.

The coun­try’s elites de­spise the Shi­nawa­tras — wildly pop­u­lar in the north and north­east — ac­cus­ing them of poi­son­ing pol­i­tics with pop­ulism, cor­rup­tion and crony­ism.

Nonethe­less par­ties run by or af­fil­i­ated to the Shi­nawa­tra clan have won ev­ery elec­tion since 2001.

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