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Does the PM's speech herald fresh conflict?

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra delivered some aggressive political comments during a speech on Monday during the seventh Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, which was attended by political leaders from many countries.

While in Thailand, she rarely makes political comments. And when she actually does, the comments are mostly in a compromising and reconciliatory tone.

Therefore, it was surprising for many political observers that Yingluck became uncharacteristically aggressive while in Mongolia. She spoke against the coup of 2006 that overthrew the government led by her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.

"If I and my family were the only ones suffering, I might just let it be. But it was not. Thailand suffered a setback and lost international credibility. Rule of law in the country was destroyed. Projects and programmes started by my brother's government that came from the people's wishes were removed. The people felt their rights and liberties were wrongly taken away."

She also publicly criticised the political unrest of 2010 for the first time, blaming the Democrat-led government of the time for the crackdown on red-shirt protesters and the "unfair" legal action against many of them.

"The people of Thailand fought back for their freedom. In May 2010, a crackdown on the protesters, the Red Shirts Movement, led to 91 deaths in the heart of the commercial district of Bangkok. Many innocent people were shot dead by snipers, and the movement crushed with the leaders jailed or fled abroad. Even today, many political victims remain in jail," she read from her prepared speech.

Although she came to power after her political party won the general election in 2011, "The story is not over. It is clear that elements of the anti-democratic regime still exist," Yingluck said in her speech.

"The new Constitution, drafted under the coup-leaders-led government, put in mechanisms to restrict democracy. A good example of this is that half of the Thai Senate is elected, but the other half is appointed by a small group of people. In addition, the so-called independent agencies have abused the power that should belong to the people, for the benefit of the few rather than to Thai society at large," she said.

It appeared Yingluck's speech was aimed at convincing her foreign audience there was a need to amend the post-coup Constitution.

On April 10, the third anniversary of the bloody clash in 2010 that resulted in many deaths including soldiers and a Japanese photographer, Thaksin told politicians of the ruling Pheu Thai Party through a Skype call that it was time to be serious about constitutional amendment.

Since then, the ruling party has moved full-steam in the direction guided by their self-exiled patriarch.

And they are unlikely to allow any individual or organisation to stand in the way.

The Constitutional Court came under attack after accepting for review a petition against parliamentarians who support constitutional amendment. The plaintiffs, citing Article 68 of the Constitution, accuse the parliamentarians of attempting to overthrow the country's democratic regime.

Without waiting for a court verdict, the Pheu Thai MPs and senators have publicly denied the court's power, starting with refusing to submit to the court their written explanation in response to the petition. A large group of Pheu Thai's red-shirt supporters also has been campaigning outside the Constitutional Court against its judges.

Yingluck's speech in Mongolia is the "last piece of the jigsaw" that has completed the picture. Her speech was clearly part of the push for constitutional amendment in a way that politicians in power want.

This dangerous game could push the opponents of charter change into a corner, but it also could lead to a new round of explosive political conflict.


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