BANGKOK – This week Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, reassured President Barack Obama at a summit for South-East Asian leaders in California that he is preparing the country for fresh elections.
But first the junta wants to pass a new constitution which would keep the hands of elected politicians firmly tied.
Thailand’s military leaders have urged those drafting the new Constitution to include a clause that will allow the military to prolong its mandate even after the formation of an elected government, media reported Friday.
The demand figures in a list of 16 proposals sent by the military government to the Constitution Drafting Committee, to help it retain special powers that it enjoys since grabbing power in a coup in 2014, according to the Bangkok Post.
Another proposal includes retaining the controversial article 44 of the provisional Constitution, giving absolute power and immunity to the junta chief and prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The military government justified the measure as necessary in the event of a possible conflict or crisis after the enforcement of the new charter that may derail national unity and reform efforts, the Post said.
The current drafting committee was formed after the Parliament, hand-picked by the army, rejected an earlier draft of the Constitution that sought to create a supervisory military council with powers to dissolve an elected government.
The new draft will be put to a referendum on July 31, according to an announcement last week by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who indicated that general elections to elect the prime minister will be held in 2017.
Since the coup, the junta has declared its intention to return power back to the people through elections, which were initially scheduled for 2015 but has been repeatedly postponed.
Since 1932, the Thai military has made 19 coup attempts of which 12 have been successful.