Thai King approves new Charter drafted by junta

In this photograph received from the Royal Bureau and taken on July 22, 2014, Army Chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (L) who led the coup in Thailand recieves the interim constitution from King Bhumibol Adulyadej (R) at the palace in Hua Hin.

A new Constitution has taken effect in Thailand after King Bhumibol Adulyadej yesterday evening endorsed a Charter drafted by the junta.

Under the interim Charter, which contains 48 articles, a new 220-member Parliament will be set up alongside an interim government.

Meanwhile, a reform council would be created to determine the longer-term changes that the country will undergo.

Those who held political positions in the past three years would not be eligible for these appointments.

Individuals who staged the coup on May 22 were also granted amnesty under the Charter.

This is Thailand's 19th Constitution. The previous one was put in place in 2007, one year after the military overthrew the premiership of Thaksin Shinawatra.

The 2007 Charter was suspended after army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power from the caretaker government of Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra two months ago.

General Prayuth had earlier indicated that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), as the junta calls itself, would share power with an interim government, and in particular oversee security matters.

Fresh elections are expected to be held around the end of next year.

Over the past two months, the NCPO has summoned and temporarily detained hundreds of individuals whom it deemed had a part to play in Thailand's debilitating political conflict.

Many of them were "red shirt" activists allied with Thaksin, who critics argued continued to control the country through his proxies despite living in self-imposed exile overseas to evade a corruption related jail term.

The junta has muzzled opposition and purged the bureaucracy of senior officials seen to be too closely aligned with the former administration.

It has also suspended political activities, including district-level elections, in what it calls a bid to calm temperatures and head off a conflict that brought ASEAN's second largest economy to its knees earlier this year.

The military says it was forced to seize power after nearly seven months of political unrest created a debilitating deadlock and killed at least 30 people.

Street protesters blocked roads, invaded government buildings and also sabotaged the Feb 2 election in order to oust Ms Yingluck's government.

She was eventually booted out by a court ruling on May 7, alongside several members of her caretaker Cabinet.

The unrest was part of a larger, eight-year-old conflict that had pitted the urban middle class and royalist establishment against Thaksin's supporters, who come mainly from the rural north and north-eastern part of the country.

Gen Prayuth yesterday met King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, to secure endorsement from the head of state for the interim Constitution.

The King, who spent almost four years in a Bangkok hospital, moved last year to his palace in the seaside town of Hua Hin, south of the Thai capital.

This article was first published on July 23, 2014.
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