Military-backed Thai council rejects new constitution

Rejection of draft sets back plans for Thailand's return to democracy, with the military retaining substantial powers.

    The main opposition party had denounced the draft text, saying it 'totally disregarded the sovereignty of the Thai people' [EPA]
    The main opposition party had denounced the draft text, saying it 'totally disregarded the sovereignty of the Thai people' [EPA]

    Thailand's military-appointed National Reform Council has rejected a new draft constitution, delaying a return to democracy following last year's coup.

    The authors of the draft in the National Reform Council had hoped the charter would move the country past almost a decade of political conflicts, but it met strong opposition from almost all sides of the country's political divide.


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    One of the most contentious provisions included a 23-member panel, with military members, that would be empowered to take over from the parliament and prime minister in times of "national crisis".

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    Almost all parties criticised the draft, and it risked being voted down in a referendum, further complicating a transition to electoral democracy.

    The rejection sets back a tentative plan for a return to democracy, with the military retaining substantial powers until a new constitution is drafted.

    Thailand's main opposition party, the Puea Thai Party, had denounced the draft constitution on Friday, saying it "totally disregards the sovereignty of the Thai people".

    Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay said that 135 votes were against the draft constitution, while 105 were for it.

    "We are back to square one now. A new constitution has to be written and presented for a vote and then hopefully to the Thai people for a referendum," he said.

    "The council is hand-picked by the military rulers and the rewriting of a new text will take another six months.

    "People are saying that this was just a scene designed to allow this government to stay in power as long as possible."

    Any new charter under the military government appeared aimed at preventing a political comeback by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in 2006 after being accused of corruption and disrespect for the revered king.

    Thailand has remained divided since, with Thaksin supporters and opponents struggling for power at the ballot box and in the streets, sometimes violently.

    The military abolished an earlier constitution after it deposed Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, as prime minister last year, and the government operates under a temporary charter. The military government later picked the drafters and the 247-member National Reform Council to help write a new constitution.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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