Thai junta's legislature approves changes to interim charter

After taking power, coup leader-turned-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha initially indicated that elections could be held as early as late 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) approved several amendments to the junta-drafted interim constitution, including one that will allow for a national vote on the next charter.

The military-dominated NLA, which was hand-picked by the junta that seized control of the country in a May 2014 coup, voted 203-0 to approve the seven amendments Thursday after three readings of the changes.

Most of the amendments are related to the process of drafting and approving the next constitution, such as giving the junta's drafting committee more time to consider changes, allowing for the national referendum and stipulating what happens to the drafting committee if the charter is rejected at any stage.

One allows previously banned politicians to take formal roles in the junta government, while another allows officials to pledge allegiance to the king in front of a designated representative instead of the ailing monarch himself.

Criticism of the draft permanent charter is mounting on both sides of Thailand's political divide. The amendment will allow Thai voters a say in a referendum proposed for January 2016, though it is not clear what form it will take.

Before it even makes its way to voters, the draft must first be approved by the junta's reform council and the junta itself. Some of the government's supporters have called for the process to be delayed altogether so that military rule can be extended for several more years until reforms can be put in place.

After taking power, coup leader-turned-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha initially indicated that elections could be held as early as late 2015 if there was no dissent, the country was at peace and a new constitution was in place.

That time line has since been delayed to late 2016 and could slip further if the constitution is rejected and the drafting process must start again.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.