Thai anti-graft body indicts 250 former MPs over charter change

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's anti-graft agency indicted 250 former lawmakers on Tuesday, a member of the body said, in a ruling that will further erode the influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The decision comes less than a month after Thaksin's sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was banned from politics for five years by the junta-appointed legislature stacked with former or serving officers of the military, which has twice toppled governments led by her family.

Wicha Mahakun, a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said the body would forward the case to the country's National Legislative Assembly.

"We have found 250 MPs guilty of acting unconstitutionally. We will forward the case for impeachment to the national legislature," Wicha told reporters.

The NACC said the former MPs acted dishonestly. They face a five-year ban from politics if found guilty by the NLA.

The case concerns a 2013 proposal by lawmakers from Yingluck's Puea Thai Party to amend the constitution and enlarge the upper house Senate by making it a fully elected body.

The case aims at destroying the Shinawatra political machine, said Paul Chambers, research director at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs affiliated with Chiang Mai University.

"The NACC is forwarding the case to the military-dominated NLA. Thus we see here how the judiciary and the military cooperate to boost an arch-royalist agenda," Chambers told Reuters, adding that the case was an attempt to destroy the Shinawatra family and their allies.

A court ruled that efforts to change the composition of the Senate were an attempt to "overthrow" the country's democratic system.

Of the 250 lawmakers charged by the NACC, 223 are former Puea Thai Party lawmakers. Banning them would deliver a serious blow to the party ahead of the next general election, planned for 2016.

Thailand has been divided for over a decade between Thaksin and his powerful family and the Bangkok-based royalist and military establishment, which sees him as a threat.

The latest crisis began in November 2013 and culminated in a May 22 coup.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Simon Webb and)

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