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Thai king's office seeks changes to draft constitution
January 10, 2017 / 8:12 AM / 8 months ago

Thai king's office seeks changes to draft constitution

Thai Royal guards march as mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/Files

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The new Thai king’s office has requested changes to a draft constitution regarding his royal powers and the government has agreed to make them, the prime minister said on Tuesday.

Thailand’s military-backed constitution is central to the junta’s plan to hold a general election to return the country to democratic rule. It was approved in a referendum last year and has been awaiting the endorsement of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne in December after the death of his father.

Thailand has a constitutional monarchy and public interventions in political affairs by a king are rare.

“The request said there are three to four issues that need fixing to ensure his royal powers,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“This issue has nothing to do with the rights and freedom of the people,” he said, without revealing which clauses would be addressed.

According to a government document seen by Reuters, the proposed changes would include removing the need for the king to appoint a regent when he travels overseas.

King Vajiralongkorn has spent much of his adult life abroad.

He returned to Thailand from Germany to take the throne following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, on Oct. 13.

The late king was widely revered and seen as a force for stability during seven decades of rule marked by sporadic coups and bouts of political unrest.

The process of changing the constitution will take up to three months because the government would first need to make changes to the current interim constitution before it can then change the draft constitution, Prayuth said.

But he said there was no change to the planned timeline for the election. It is due to be held by the end of this year, although one of the military-appointed lawmakers last week questioned whether that was possible.

A senior official in the Pheu Thai party, which led a government overthrown in a 2014 coup, said that the party would not object if the election was slightly delayed as a result of royal prerogatives.

Thailand’s lese-majeste law is the world’s harshest and makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the monarchy. The law carries a jail term of up to 15 years for each offense.

Reporting by Bangkok Bureau; Editing by Robert Birsel

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