HUA HIN – Thailand’s military leader secured the king’s endorsement for a provisional constitution that will pave the way for a new legislature and interim government while allowing the military to retain power.
Dressed in a white ceremonial uniform with gold-colored braid, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha prostrated himself on a carpet before King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he received the charter on Tuesday at the king’s seaside palace of Hua Hin, south of Bangkok, nationally televised footage showed.
It was the first time that Gen. Prayuth was granted an audience with the country’s revered 86-year-old monarch since he seized power from an elected government and scrapped the 2007 constitution two months ago.
The charter, drawn up by the junta’s legal advisory team, maintains the status and power of the National Council for Peace and Order, the military governing council set up after the coup.
Under the 48-article constitution, the junta has the authority to recommend the appointment of members of the national legislative assembly, reform council and constitution-drafting committee, which will be responsible for writing a new charter.
The junta can veto decisions by the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Meanwhile, it is exonerated for its actions since the coup under the charter’s amnesty provision.
The 220-member legislative assembly is to name a new prime minister, who then will recommend members of the cabinet.
Gen. Prayuth said this month during a weekly national address that the government would be established in September and a new election is expected to take place in October 2015.
The junta’s legal advisers are expected to give more details on the interim constitution on Wednesday, according to the junta’s team of spokesmen.
Gen. Prayuth said the military’s takeover was necessary to restore order after months of street protests to oust then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra led to a political impasse and unrest that killed at least 28 people.
Critics of the coup said it was aimed at curtailing the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former populist leader and brother of Ms. Yingluck, who was seen by his opponents as a threat to the country’s monarchy and conservative elites.
Mr. Thaksin had dominated domestic politics for a decade. His popularity among the rural poor in Thailand’s north and northeast had helped his party and allies to win elections even after he was overthrown by the military in a 2006 coup.
By introducing the new interim charter, the military is trying to legitimize the latest coup d’état—the 12th successful attempt in Thailand’s modern history—and make it easier for the public to accept, said Michael Montesano, co-coordinator of the Thailand Studies Program at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
“The entire exercise in drafting an interim charter is a peculiar one because we have a group of soldiers who have mounted the coup d’état, who are not creating an independent government and are drafting now a set of rules that they draft so that they follow,” said Mr. Montesano.
Gen. Prayuth earlier said that having the provisional constitution marked the second phase of the junta’s three-step program of overhauling the country’s politics. That plan focuses on eradicating corruption and promoting good governance and a proper checks-and-balances system.
The junta will be in charge of security affairs and provide advice and recommendations to the new government, Gen. Prayuth said earlier.
Political analysts predicted that the general himself may take the position of prime minister. “I think it’s going to be a spoils system. Prayuth’s loyalists will get nice postings [in the cabinet],” said Paul Chambers, a professor and military analyst at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University.
In the first two months following its coup, the junta moved swiftly to try to restore business confidence, restart government spending and clear an investment-applications backlog caused by the political deadlock. It was also quick to silence dissent by banning and arresting anti-coup protesters and warning activists and the media to refrain from criticizing its operations.
The military has continued to ramp up nationwide campaigns to “return happiness to the people” to win support from the public and foster reconciliation in the divided country. The military has offered free movie screenings, haircuts and other activities.
—Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol and Wilawan Watcharasakwet contributed to this article.