Thai assembly approves new charter, paves way for referendum

Thai assembly approves new charter, paves way for referendum
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures in a traditional greeting to National Legislative Assembly members at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, May 21, 2015.

BANGKOK- Thailand's army-dominated national assembly approved amendments to the country's draft constitution at a third reading on Thursday, paving the way for a referendum on the newly drafted charter next year.

Among the proposals in the charter is a clause that allows for an unelected prime minister and for the upper house Senate to be largely appointed.

Opponents say the charter is a major step backwards for Thailand and will only serve to consolidate the military's hold on power and weaken existing political parties.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief came to power in a May 2014 coup, has laid out a 15-month road map involving, among other things, the drafting of a new charter that he says will pave the way for elections sometime in 2016.

If a referendum is held it could push polls back further.

Prayuth will now have 15 days to present the draft charter to Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej for approval.

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