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Thai PM Says King Seeks Change in Pending Constitution

FILE - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.
FILE - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.

Thailand's prime minister said Tuesday he will honor a request from the country's new king that several changes be made to a constitution that was approved in a referendum last August.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters that King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun told his royal advisers that he wished to have several articles about the monarchy amended. Prayuth did not specify what changes he desired, but said three or four points were involved.

Vajiralongkorn took the throne on Dec. 2, succeeding his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October after an extended illness. An interim constitution put in place after the army seized power in 2014 calls for the approved charter to be endorsed by the king within 90 days, and Vajiralongkorn's failure so far to do so had caused concern.

Prayuth indicated he would make the changes by invoking Article 44 of the 2014 interim constitution, which gives him executive powers tantamount to lawmaking abilities. However, Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krea-ngam, a legal expert, later clarified to reporters that the amendment process would actually use Article 46, which does not allow Prayuth to act unilaterally but instead requires the assent of the ruling junta, the Cabinet and the military-appointed legislature.

The proposed revisions cast further doubt on the military government's promise to hold elections by the end of this year. In recent weeks, the government has been hedging on its promise, stressing that the polls will follow processes decreed in the interim constitution - involving the duration of different stages - rather than being pinned to a specific date. The date has already been set back several times, with critics charging that the military is trying to enshrine its own power while crippling political parties.

Aside from attending memorial services for his father and some religious and civic ceremonies, the 64-year-old Vajiralongkorn has been keeping a relatively low profile, as he did when he was crown prince. Much public attention is still focused on his late father, who was revered as an industrious monarch who acted selflessly during his 70-year reign.