Protesters denounce constitution plans


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The Independent Online

Demonstrators gathered in central Bangkok yesterday to protest at the Thai government's plan to amend the constitution, which critics say is a ruse to allow ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return from exile.

Thailand has gone through bouts of violent political unrest since Mr Shinawatra was toppled in a coup in 2006 and the moves to change the constitution threaten to raise tensions again after a period of calm since his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became Prime Minister after a general election last July.

The protest was organised by the royalist Siam Samakkhi group, which is also concerned that the government might try to amend lèse–majesté laws that impose hefty prison sentences on people found guilty of insulting the King. The government denies it has any such intention.

Parliament voted last week to form a Charter Drafting Assembly to draw up amendments to the constitution, which was introduced in 2007. In 2008, the former leader was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison after being found guilty of abuse of power for helping his former wife buy state-owned land while he was in office. He fled abroad to avoid jail.