News / Asia

Thai Junta Unveils Temporary Constitution

FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.
FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thailand’s military junta has unveiled an interim constitution that allows the army to retain sweeping powers. And the army chief, who currently has total executive and legislative oversight, could become the kingdom’s next prime minister.

Thailand’s temporary charter is to legitimize the May 22 coup and will effectively grant the junta supreme power over the country’s political and judicial arenas.

The military, which took power in a coup two months ago, is to handpick a 220-member legislature (replacing the House of Representatives and the Senate) that will later select a prime minister and Cabinet. Anyone who has held a political position in a current party will be excluded from the new group of lawmakers.

The members of the reconstituted legislative body must be at least 40 years of age and must not have been previously removed from a government post for “corruption, fraud or misconduct.”
Royal endorsement

An economic advisor to the military government, former commerce minister Narongchai Akransanee, says this will likely lead to elections in October of next year.

“The time line is like this now we have the interim constitution: names of members of the NLA, the national legislative assembly, would be announced most likely within two weeks and the government would be formed after that… And as General Prayuth said the government with military participation would be in place definitely in September,” said Narongchai Akransanee.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s revered 86-year-old King formally endorsed the interim charter in a ceremony with General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army’s chief. The ceremony, which took place in the coastal city Hua Hin, provides additional royal legitimacy to the coup by endorsing the new laws drawn up by the military.

In the coming months, the junta’s interim legislature is expected to choose a committee that will draw up a new constitution, which will then be submitted to the new reform committee for approval.
In the meantime, there is strong speculation General Prayuth will be selected as prime minister.

A deputy junta leader and a legal advisor to the military government are not ruling that out, saying the choice will be up to the provisional parliament.

The junta’s reform plan largely meets the demands of the protesters in Bangkok who occupied parts of the capital for months in a bid to push then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power. Protest leaders had called for an appointed committee to rule the country and implement far-reaching political reforms, before holding new elections.

Muted criticism

Criticism of the new, interim constitution in Thailand is understandably muted, since the military has authority to summon anyone making comments deemed to be political or that could cause unrest.

The domestic media is operating under the harshest censorship seen here in decades.

A member of Thai Students for Democracy, speaking to VOA by Skype, says his underground group will not surrender to the junta’s anti-democratic decrees.

Identifying himself as “Rick Lee,” the university student in Bangkok characterizes the new charter as being imposed by a “system of tyrants.”

“The latest military junta is still maintaining the value of constitutional and freedom. But right now our value of constitution's check-and-balances, freedoms and liberty has gone. This is so ridiculous for them to do it like this because it means we're back to the situation like in Burma with the military rule. This is a huge step back for democratic development in this country,” he said.

Others expressing opposition - mostly through anonymous comments posted Wednesday on social media - lamented what they called a blow for democracy. The charter is also seen as a move by the junta to ensure political power will securely be in the hands of the conservative and royalist elite.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, contends the interim charter “will help solve the crisis and return the situation to normal, restore security, unity and solve economic problems.”

And the reform council will draft “political rules to prevent and suppress corruption and investigate abuses of power by the state before handing the mission to new representatives and the government.”

Since the end of absolute monarchial rule in 1932 Thailand has experienced frequent overthrows of civilian governments by the military. The generals or judicial action have deposed three governments since 2006.
Thaksin Shinawatra influence

The last five national elections in Thailand have been won by parties supported by billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra. He was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup.

Junta officials say they want to ensure Thai politics are permanently freed from the influence of Thaksin. He was convicted in 2008 by a military-appointed panel of corruption and faces imprisonment should he return to Thailand from self-imposed exile.

His younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was forced out as prime minister this year following six months of rallies in Bangkok.

After Yingluck’s removal General Prayuth declared martial law and then seized all power himself.

Since the bloodless putsch hundreds of people have been summoned for questioning and temporary detention. Most of those targeted are considered allies of the Shinawatra clan or critics of the military or Thailand’s harsh lese majeste laws.

General Prayuth has justified carrying out the coup as a necessary move amid a dangerous extended period of political stalemate and that the military will now improve Thailand’s democratic model and “return happiness to the people.”


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Lindsaybkk from: Bangkok
August 05, 2014 12:45 AM
Elections do not mean Democracy as we know. The Junta saved a country in decline and locals knew a Coup was coming. The Propaganda on all sides was not getting the country anywhere.
Civil War was averted, evidence of Bombs, Guns, M79, Weapons stockpiling by Red Shirt & PT Party was collected daily by Military. Many Militants arrested, all linked to Supporters Red Shirt/Thaksin Faction.
Even weapons collected from PT members Vehicle.
Now Junta has done more in this country fixing issues in first month than previous 10yrs! If we can get Politicians who wish to work for the people and not themselves then we can go back to Elections.
Bangkokians would prefer Junta to Thaksin corruption & Dictatorship anyday!
Thaksins wish to be President is over. Thailand does not need another Marcos Elite Leader.
But for now Policies, Constitution, Infrustructure, agenda planning in progress which will get Thailand back on track. Peace has returned.
Long Live The King

by: Tom from: TX
July 23, 2014 8:33 AM
Using 'constitution' 'junta' and 'royalty' in the same breath brings forth rolled eyes, a large har-har, or bobbing head. The Thighs need to move into the 21st century if they can and stop chopping heads.
In Response

by: glen from: thailand
July 24, 2014 8:58 AM
Hey Tom, It is Ties not thighs, but what we are witnessing is the removal of one corrupt leadership by a new corrupt leadership which engages in nepotism ( the 2 most powerful people in Thailand post coup are brothers) and exploits /tramples on the rights of the rural poor, ie no universal suffrage is planned.Voting will be as in Hong Kong where one can only vote for a hand picked candidate
In Response

by: Allen from: WA
July 23, 2014 9:38 PM
First off, it is Thai, not Thigh. Second, they don't chop off peoples heads. If you would have bothered to look at the conditions that lead up to the coup, you would have known that there was a large degree of corruption that contributed to the coup.

Since taking office, the military has been ridding the government of corrupt officials, targeted organized criminal groups, drug traffickers and human traffickers, and cracking down on individuals who are scamming tourists and discrediting the Thai people. But then, ignorance is bliss.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs