King to Sign Thailand’s New Charter on April 6

Nontarat Phaicharoen
170403-TH-monument-620.jpg Thai pro-democracy activists gather at the Monument of Democracy in Bangkok to mark the second anniversary of a coup that brought the military to power, May 22, 2016.

Thailand’s king will officially endorse a new constitution on Thursday, the royal palace said Monday in announcing a formality that will clear the way for the first elections promised by the military since it seized power nearly three years ago.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn will sign the charter in front of leaders of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches during a ceremony at the Ananta Samakom Throne Hall in Bangkok, the Royal Household Bureau said. Thailand’s 20th constitution in 85 years will be enacted as soon as the charter is published in the Royal Gazette following his signature, according to legal experts.

“[T]he Lord Chamberlain shall bring the constitution up to the King for signing and then granting to the Prime Minister,” the bureau said in a statement.

But elections enshrined by the new constitution will not happen until sometime next year at the earliest, the deputy prime minister said nearly two months ago when government officials were tweaking the military-backed charter to accommodate changes requested by the king.

The public comments in early February by Deputy Prime Minister for Legal Affairs Wissanu Kreua-ngam, in which he told reporters that elections would “roughly take place within one year’s time.” The statement signaled at least the fourth time the junta pushed back the timetable for electins it had promised for putting Thailand back on a path to democracy.

“It has been almost three years now and nothing got better. The government or the NCPO told us they have a roadmap for democracy but they keep postponing this,” Somkid Cheukong, a former MP with the opposition Pheu Thai Party, told BenarNews.

“They should fix the timeframe for passing related laws and hold elections at the soonest.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and other officials from the military government did not issue any statements in response to the announcement from the palace or say anything about a timeline for elections.

Further delays?

The charter’s enactment, a step in the process of holding elections, was delayed because the king had requested some changes after he declined to sign in January. The king asked the National assembly to make changes that would enhance his powers as the monarch, such as being able to rule the country while spending long periods abroad.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne in December following the Oct. 13, 2016, death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had ruled Thailand for 70 years.

After the new king sent the draft charter back for revisions, Prayuth assured the public that elections would take place in late 2017 and a new government would be in power in 2018.

Yet the timetable for elections could be complicated by a provision in the new constitution requiring that lawmakers pass 10 so-called “organic laws” related to elections and political parties, Wissanu said on Feb. 9. Lawmakers will need to gather inputs from all stakeholders before they can pass these laws that represent another hurdle before holding elections, he indicated.

The 10 laws will require the consent of 75 political parties and Thailand’s Election Commission, said Meechai Ritchuphand, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.

The new charter was approved in a referendum in August 2016, but it is controversial because it allows the junta to retain influence over governments, critics have said.

For example, the constitution allows 250 senators appointed by the junta to join 500 elected MPs in picking a new prime minister for a five-year term.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.