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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs