Thai plea against constitutional change dismissed

The Constitutional Court dismissed opposition complaints that government`s plans to amend the Constitution are an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.

Last Updated: Jul 13, 2012, 16:06 PM IST

Bangkok: In a landmark ruling, Thailand`s Constitutional Court on Friday dismissed opposition complaints that government`s plans to amend the Constitution are an attempt to overthrow the monarchy, a decision seen as a victory for the ruling party.

The court also ruled that the establishment of the Constitution drafting assembly was not unconstitutional.

Dropping the five complaints against the Constitution amendments, the court ruled that the amendments were constitutional and the complainants were only speculating that amendments would lead to the overthrowing of the monarchy.

The ruling had been eagerly awaited with fears that an adverse ruling could trigger political chaos and street protests if judges took the extreme step of dissolving the ruling party.

Hundreds of Red Shirt supporters of the ruling party, gathered outside the court, waved and rejoiced after the ruling was announced.

The case involves an attempt by lawmakers to set up a drafting committee to amend the country`s Constitution, which they deem is not democratic as it was created in the wake of a 2006 Army coup.

Opponents think the plan is part of a plot to dismantle the constitutional monarchy - a claim proponents have denied.

The court said it has jurisdiction to try the Constitution amendment case and the power to try and make a ruling whether the amendments would be tantamount to efforts to overthrow the ruling system and Constitution or not.

Hundreds of police have been on alert fearing violence by Red Shirts, who back the Government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Pheu Thai Party.

Yingluck is the youngest sister of former premier and self-exiled billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a coup six years ago.

Yingluck`s was voted to office after a landslide win in polls last year. The case began last week when the court called 15 witnesses to argue both sides for two days.

The current charter was drafted in 2007, one year after the coup, by an interim, military-backed government.

The new Constitution sought to limit the power of elected politicians, changing the Senate from an all-elected body back to a partly appointed one.

It also strengthened the power of independent state agencies and the judiciary. Opponents of the amendments are mostly Thaksin`s critics, who fear it could help him return to power.

The former premier now lives in self imposed exile in Dubai to avoid a 2008 corruption conviction he says was politically motivated.

Clashes between the two sides saw in 2008, Thaksin`s opponents taking over the Prime Minister`s offices for three months and Bangkok`s two airports for a week.

In 2010, Thaksin`s supporters held street demonstrations that led to clashes with the military that leaving more than 90 people dead and at least 2,000 injured.