HASH(0xb9e2b8)

Thai king endorses new constitution, 20th since 1932

Thai king endorses new constitution, 20th since 1932

BANGKOK — Thailand’s king signed the country’s new constitution on Thursday, putting his stamp of approval on the nation’s 20th charter since the absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932.

King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun endorsed the document in an elaborate ceremony at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall attended by senior members of the country’s military government as well as foreign diplomats.

The military junta, which seized control of the country in a coup nearly three years ago, has said the promulgation of the constitution will clear the way for new elections no later than November 2018, though it has repeatedly delayed previous promised poll dates.

The new charter was approved voters in a public referendum last year, though campaigns against the document were outlawed by the junta, which still restricts freedoms of speech and assembly in the country. The military government says the document is needed to move the country past more than a decade of political unrest and social division that been punctuated by two coups and multiple rounds of deadly street protests.

Critics say the charter — drafted by a junta-appointed panel — is undemocratic, will allow the military to keep its grip on power even after elections, and will ultimately deepen the country’s divisions. They say the charter limits the power of voters by empowering unelected bodies, creating a fully appointed senate that includes military commanders, and neutering the authority of elected officials.

“In addition to the military, the judiciary and other accountability-promoting agencies are less connected and accountable to the electorate because the upper chamber is now a military domain, no longer elected by the people,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Chulalongkorn University.

He said Thursday’s “major” ceremony meant the constitution “has a better chance of staying around longer than its predecessors, and therefore democratic aspirations in the charter will have to be expressed via amendments rather than a complete rewrite.”

The draft signed Thursday was modified after last year’s referendum to give Vajiralongkorn more powers. The signing ceremony took place on Chakri Day, an annual holiday marking the establishment of the Chakri dynasty. Vajiralongkorn is the 10th king in the dynasty, having inherited the throne from his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October.

The new constitution will do little to reverse human rights problems that arose under military rule, London-based human rights group Amnesty International said.

“Thailand’s military government retains its carte blanche authority to rule by diktat until elections are held, and future governments will have free rein to restrict human rights on various vaguely-defined grounds,” said Champa Patel, the group’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “The new constitution also keeps in place the full gamut of orders and decrees imposed by the military government since the 2014 coup, which have facilitated widespread human rights violations.”

Kaweewit Kaewjinda, The Associated Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Kelowna man injured during arrest sues RCMP

Supreme Court civil claim alleges Dustin Blondin was the victim of an ‘unprovoked attack’

United Way celebrates seven decades of impact in Southern Interior

Organization sees issues with poverty, mental health and addictions, heighten during the pandemic

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

UPDATE: Old Ferry Wharf Road reopens

The leak was first reported about 11:35 a.m., Friday

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: Ghost sighting in Vernon’s Polson Park

Mom and daughter photoshoot brings joy and laughter to bystanders

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Parks Canada not responsible for Mount Kobau blockade

Nearby residents have been vocal about plans to turn the area into a national park

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read