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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid