Thai king endorses junta`s new constitution

Thailand`s junta won approval from the king on Tuesday for an interim constitution mapping out year-long political reforms.

Bangkok: Thailand`s junta won approval from the king on Tuesday for an interim constitution mapping out year-long political reforms expected to curb the influence of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

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

"General Prayut met His Majesty the King, who has endorsed the interim constitution," said deputy army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong.
Prayut has ruled out holding elections until around October 2015, despite appeals from the United States and the European Union for a return to a democratic path.

The interim constitution, when published, is expected to give an indication of how the military plans to run the country and overhaul the political system, although the main changes are expected to come later in a permanent charter.

The May coup was the latest chapter in a long-running political crisis broadly pitting Thaksin`s billionaire family and its supporters against a royalist establishment backed by parts of the military and judiciary.
"The goal is to utterly destroy the influence of Thaksin," said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai.

"But a military government and new reactionary constitution will instead tend to build sympathy and more support for Thaksin from rural and impoverished Thais."

He said the kingdom`s arch-royalists would have to use tactics such as "gerrymandering on a massive scale" to prevent another election victory by a pro-Thaksin party.

The army chief seized power after nearly seven months of protests saw 28 people killed and paralysed the government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is Thaksin`s sister, and her Puea Thai Party.

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.

The new cabinet is expected to be picked by a junta-appointed national assembly which observers anticipate will be broadly subservient to the military.

The reforms could result in the lower house of parliament 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 Puea Thai Party and Yingluck maybe can win another landslide," he said.

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