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Thailand senators indicted after attempting to amend constitution

[JURIST] Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) [official website] on Tuesday indicted 36 senators for alleged misconduct, including the misuse of authority in violation of Thailand's constitution. The indictment is a response to the senators' attempt to amend the constitution [AP report] to make the senate fully elected, a move ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court [official website] in November. Commission Secretary General Sansern Poljiak has said that the case will be forwarded to the Senate [official website], which will decide whether the 36 now-suspended senators will be impeached. Many of the senators will be replaced next month [AP report] by newly elected ones. The decision by the NACC means that the senators will be forced to face malfeasance charges [Bangkok Post report] in the Supreme Court of Justice's Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions. A conviction would result in an automatic five-year ban from politics.

Thailand has been fraught with political instability since the 2006 military coup, [JURIST op-ed]. Thailand's Democrat party, the country's main opposition political party, petitioned [JURIST report] the Thai Constitutional Court in February to annul the results of the country's national elections, alleging that the polls were unconstitutional. In January, leading up to the elections, an anti-government protest leader was shot and killed [JURIST report] during demonstrations blocking a voting station. The shooting came just five days after the Thai government declared [JURIST report] a 60-day state of emergency, granting it broad powers to curtail the political unrest, including the ability to censor media, impose a curfew and detain suspects without charges. These powers are in addition to those granted in November when the prime minister invoked [JURIST report] a special security law known as the Internal Security Act, which conferred broader powers on police forces attempting to contain the protests. Just days later, protesters stormed [JURIST report] the army's headquarters in Bangkok, seeking assistance in overthrowing the government.

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