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Thailand ruling party planning to amend constitution amid investigation of PM

[JURIST] Leaders from Thailand's ruling People Power Party (PPP) said on Tuesday that the PPP plans to introduce amendments to the country's 2007 constitution [PDF text], despite likely opposition. A spokesperson for the government said that in forming a new committee [Bangkok Post report] to draft the changes, the ruling coalition would seek input from both professional experts and members of the opposition party, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Proponents of the plan argue that the changes, including giving more authority to elected officials and less to Thailand's courts, are necessary to provide for stronger democratic rule of the country. Opponents of the plan support strong judicial oversight provisions in the current charter, and argue that the PPP is too closely connected with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] who was ousted by military coup [JURIST report] in 2006, largely due to allegations of corruption. AFP has more.

On Monday, the country's Election Commission (EC) [official website, in Thai] said it would begin an investigation [Bangkok post report] into allegations that current prime minister Somchai Wongsawat [Nation backgrounder] illegally holds stocks in certain companies. Under the Thai constitution, public officials are prohibited from having stock in either telecommunications or media companies, or companies that receive government contracts. The investigation of Somchai comes less than a month after the Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website, in Thai] ousted then-prime-minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for violating the country's constitution by receiving payment for an appearance on a television cooking show [SkyNews report, with video]. Last week, Samak also lost an appeal [JURIST report] he had made against a 2006 defamation conviction.

Earlier this month, the EC voted to recommend [Bangkok Post report; JURIST report] that the PPP be disbanded for election fraud [Bangkok Post report] allegedly committed by one of its top officers. On the same day, Samak imposed a State of Emergency in Bangkok, prohibiting public gatherings and the incitement of protests in reaction to demonstrations [Bangkok Post reports] by both pro and anti-government protesters. PAD members have also protested [JURIST report] delays in Thaksin's various corruption trials, and the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) [official website] said that it may bring more charges against Thaksin without waiting for the Office of the Attorney General [official website, in Thai] to file additional indictments.

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