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Thailand court begins constitutional amendment case

The Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website] on Thursday began its hearing over claims that the country's prime minister's party is planning to amend the constitution, thereby threatening the monarchy. Opposition Democrats have accused that the party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC News profile; JURIST news archive], the Puea Thai party [party website, in Thai], is seeking to amend the constitution in order to allow the Prime Minister's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC News profile; JURIST news archive] to reenter the country. Thaksin was the former prime minister of Thailand who left office after allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest. He is currently in a voluntary exile to avoid jail sentence for the charges against him. The Puea Thai party has denied the allegations and claimed that it does not have the intention claimed. If the court rules that the party's constitutional amendment threatens the monarchy, the party may be dissolved.

Thailand's political system has remained unstable following the coup that ousted Thaksin in 2006. The PM's party has been constantly criticized and attacked by opposition democratic parties. Last August, a Thai court acquitted Pojamarn Shinawatra [JURIST news archive], the ex-wife of Thaksin, overturning a tax evasion conviction [JURIST report] of 2008. She had been convicted for transferring stocks in the amount of $16.3 million to her step-brother and secretary, who were sentenced to three and two years, respectively. In July of last year, lawyers associated with the Democrat Party filed documents with the Election Commission challenging [JURIST report] the Puea Thai party's victory in the 2011 election. They accused the party of having involved the former PM and other banned politicians during the campaign seeking the dissolution of the party. In February, seven "red shirt" [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] opposition leaders detained during anti-government protests [JURIST news archive] that began last March were released [JURIST report] on bail by a Thai court. They had been arrested on terrorism charges during the demonstration.

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