Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has lashed out at the current constitution, saying it contains mechanisms which "restrict democracy".
Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj flanks Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after the premier addressed the seventh Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Ulan Bator on Monday. (Reuters photo)
In a rare departure from her usual conciliatory tone, Ms Yingluck told a democracy conference in Mongolia Monday that anti-democratic regime elements still exist in Thailand.
The military sponsored constitution, drafted after the 2006 coup, contains mechanisms which restrict public rights and freedoms, she said.
"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," Ms Yingluck told the Conference on the Community of Democracies in Ulan Bator. "The so-called independent agencies have abused the power that should belong to the people, for the benefit of the few rather than society."
Her statement echoes the stance of red-shirt protesters who are rallying at the Constitution Court to demand the ousting of its nine judges. The protest came after the court agreed to consider whether the government-backed effort to rewrite sections of the charter was constitutional or not.
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The protesters claim the court has violated the democratic principles of the legislative and executive branches.
Red-shirt leaders urged their supporters to capture the judges, a tactic which drew a swift rebuke from critics who labelled it as an attempt to intimidate the judiciary. Ms Yingluck insisted before her trip to Mongolia that the red shirts had the right to protest against the court so long as they did so within the confines of the law.
She also defended her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and highlighted the deaths of the 91 people who were killed during the crackdown on red-shirt protesters in 2010.
She said the 2006 military coup against her brother was a setback for Thailand's international credibility and the rule of law.
"Many people who don't know me say, 'Why complain? It's a normal process that governments come and go,"' she said. "And if my family and I were the only ones suffering, I might just let it be." But that is not the case, she said. "Projects and programmes started by my brother's government that came from the people's wishes were removed."
People felt their rights and liberties were stripped away, Ms Yingluck said. The red-shirt movement's prolonged protest in 2010 was an attempt to fight back for freedom, she added.
"Many innocent people were shot dead by snipers [during the crackdown], and the movement was crushed with the leaders either jailed or forced to flee abroad. Even today, many political victims remain in jail," Ms Yingluck said.
The Department of Special Investigation's probe into the 2010 clashes suggested 13 people were probably killed by security forces.
The courts have so far ruled that Khunakorn Srisuwan, 14, and taxi driver Phan Khamkong, were among the 13.
Ms Yingluck also accused the preceding Abhisit Vejjajiva government of calling an election with the intention of manipulating the vote.
"In the end, the will of the people cannot be denied. I was elected with an absolute majority," she said.
Mr Abhisit, now opposition leader, responded by saying it was not clear if Ms Yingluck was speaking as the premier or as Thaksin's sister.
"As the prime minister, Ms Yingluck should not protect a fugitive from justice," Mr Abhisit said, referring to Thaksin's self-imposed exile after being sentenced in 2008 to two years in prison for abuse of authority in the Ratchadaphisek land sale case.
He also urged Ms Yingluck to review her stance on the red-shirt protesters who are camped at the charter court.
"The rally is clearly trying to intimidate the court," Mr Abhisit said. "The prime minister should have maintained her objectivity in this case."
People's Alliance for Democracy spokesman Panthep Puapongphan Monday said Ms Yingluck must have suffered a memory lapse.
He said democracy had been compromised since 2001 when her brother Thaksin became prime minister.
He accused Thaksin of using his power to cripple the system of checks and balances in the 1997 charter.