Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Thai king, junta leader meet on constitution plan

AFP, BANGKOK

Thailand’s junta leader met the king yesterday to win approval for an interim constitution that will map out year-long political reforms expected to curb the influence of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

It was the first time the revered, but ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, has granted an audience to coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha since the military seized power two months ago.

The Royal Household Bureau said in a brief announcement that Prayuth was granted an audience with the king at 5pm to receive the approved interim constitution.

Prayuth has ruled out holding elections until around October next year, despite appeals from the US and the EU for a return to a democratic path.

The interim constitution, which has not yet been published, is expected to give an indication of how the military plans to run the country.

The junta, which has curtailed civil liberties, has said it plans to share power with a new interim government, with the military retaining control of national security.

Prayuth seized power after nearly seven months of protests that saw 28 people killed and paralyzed the government of former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is Thaksin’s sister, and her Pheu Thai Party.

The new Cabinet is expected to be picked by the junta-appointed National Assembly, which observers expect to be broadly subservient to the military.

The reforms could result in the lower house of parliament — the House of Representatives — becoming partially appointed, like the upper house, said Kan Yuenyong, executive director of the Siam Intelligence Unit think tank.

“The conservatives know that if they let a normal election happen again, the Pheu Thai Party and Yingluck maybe can win another landslide,” he said.

He said the new constitution could also include an amnesty for the leaders of the May coup.

However, Kan added that there was also “a lot of political conflict within the conservatives themselves,” so it was unclear how radical the reforms would be.

Speaking at army headquarters earlier yesterday, Prayuth said the charter had already been endorsed by the king, describing the planned audience as an “important mission.”

He received approval from the king to run the country days after the May 22 coup.

However, on that occasion he did not meet Bhumibol, who has lived at his seaside palace in Hua Hin since leaving a Bangkok hospital in August last year after almost four years.

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