Thai King 'approves' law linked to Charter

Photos of former premiers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra adorn the hat of a supporter outside a Bangkok court where Ms Yingluck appeared yesterday.
Photos of former premiers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra adorn the hat of a supporter outside a Bangkok court where Ms Yingluck appeared yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • Thailand's King yesterday approved a law providing a 10-year jail sentence for campaigning ahead of an August referendum on a new Constitution written by the ruling military, AFP reported.

The law, also signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, comes amid snowballing criticism of the proposed Charter touted by the junta as the antidote to Thailand's caustic political divide.

Politicians from across the aisle have blasted the Charter as undemocratic and aimed at entrenching military power at the expense of elected lawmakers.

Thais will vote in an Aug 7 referendum on the Constitution, but the law further empowers the military government to block any protests or public seminars on the Charter.

Thailand has been torn apart by coups and various rounds of often-deadly mass protests since billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled by the military in 2006.

Shinawatra supporters say the Charter is an effort to cripple the powerful Shinawatra family, whose political bloc has won every national election in the past decade but is hated by a military-allied elite.

Thaksin's sister Yingluck - whose government was overthrown in a 2014 military coup - is also fighting corruption charges linked to her government's rice price subsidy scheme, a case that her supporters say is politically motivated. She appeared in court yesterday for the seventh hearing of prosecution witnesses in the rice-pledging case, the Bangkok Post reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'Thai King 'approves' law linked to Charter'. Print Edition | Subscribe