Puea Thai slams junta-backed draft Constitution

BANGKOK • Thailand's main opposition party denounced a military-backed draft Constitution, saying it "totally disregards the sovereignty of the Thai people", a week before a junta-appointed council is due to vote on it.

The army seized power in a bloodless coup in May last year, toppling the remnants of the Puea Thai party-led government of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra. Since then, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who as army chief led the coup, has ruled largely unchallenged.

"This charter totally disregards the sovereignty of the Thai people," the Puea Thai party said in a statement yesterday.

"The true power belongs to agencies and mechanisms that are designed to maintain the junta's power without checks and balances."

The National Reform Council (NRC) will vote on the draft on Sept 6 and, if it passes, it will be put to a referendum in January. It needs the support of just over half of the NRC's 247 members.

The National Reform Council will vote on the draft on Sept 6 and, if it passes, it will be put to a referendum in January. It needs the support of just over half of the council's 247 members.

Of particular concern is a proposal for a 23-member National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation committee dominated by the military that would allow security forces to intervene in a crisis.

"Many provisions are contrary to international democratic principles and the rule of law," Puea Thai said.

Many politicians say they expect the charter to pass the vote, but be rejected in the referendum. If so, the drafting process would have to begin again, delaying an election that the junta has promised for next year.

Some groups have held peaceful protests against the junta, but opposition activists have largely gone to ground in recent weeks, after the authorities arrested some student protesters.

General Prayut has had to contend with criticism levelled at his administration's handling of Thailand's flagging economy. More recently, it has also been censured for making slow progress in an investigation into a Bangkok bomb attack that killed 20 people, largely foreigners.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Puea Thai slams junta-backed draft Constitution'. Print Edition | Subscribe