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Interim Thai Parliament Picks Military's Legal Adviser as Speaker

  • Roger Wilkison

Thailand's military-appointed assembly has chosen a veteran lawyer and legislator with links to the leaders of last month's coup as its new speaker. The legislative assembly will have little power to contest what the interim government does.

Sixty-eight-year-old legal expert Meechai Ruchupan has twice been president of the Thai senate. But, more importantly, he has over the years been an indispensable legal adviser to governments of nearly every political stripe.

Most recently, Meechai provided legal advice to the coup leaders and helped them draft a provisional constitution. But he was also a legal consultant to Thaksin Shinawatra, the twice-elected prime minister deposed by the military on September 19.

In its first formal meeting Tuesday, the 242-member National Legislative Assembly - appointed by the military and endorsed by the king - overwhelmingly chose Meechai as its speaker over two other candidates.

In a faltering voice, the new speaker expressed his gratitude. He said he will do his very best in performing his duties.

The one-chamber assembly has few powers. It can draft and approve laws under the provisional constitution. And it can debate and question government policies but not overturn them.

It will be tasked over the next year to work in conjunction with other bodies in drafting a new constitution for Thailand, ahead of promised democratic elections next year.

The country's previous democratic constitution was approved in 1997 after a series of military coups.

The military said it ousted Mr. Thaksin because Thailand had become polarized over repeated allegations of corruption and abuse of power by his administration.

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