June 18, 2015 / 12:20 PM / 4 years ago

Thai assembly approves new charter, paves way for referendum

File photo of National Legislative Assembly members voting on the impeachment of former Thai Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, May 8, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/Files

BANGKOK (Reuters) - 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.

Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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