Thailand's Draft Post-Coup Charter Completed

July 6, 2007

Author: Nopporn Wong-Anan

Source: Reuters

An army-appointed commission unanimously approved Thailand's draft post-coup constitution on Friday, paving the way for a referendum on it on Aug. 19 and a possible general election before the end of the year.

The 100-member Constitution Drafting Council says the new charter is more democratic than the 1997 "People's Constitution" torn up after the military removed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup last year.

But the 309-article draft, which cuts the number of members of parliament and hands more powers to the courts, bureaucracy and military, could face serious opposition from Thaksin loyalists, academics and some Buddhist activists.

Former members of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party, disbanded last month on charges of electoral fraud, branded the charter "retrograde" and said it would mean a return to the fractious and unstable coalition politics of the 1990s.

"This charter has been drafted by dictators. How can we accept it?" former Thaksin spokesman Jakrapob Penkair told 200 supporters in front of parliament during the council vote.

Thongchai Keuasakul, a retired army general who failed to get Buddhism declared the official state religion in the charter, said Buddhist advocacy groups would campaign against it.