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Thai junta's legislature considering changes to interim charter
[BANGKOK] Thailand's National Legislative Assembly will decide on several amendments to the junta-drafted interim constitution, including one that would allow for a national vote on the next charter.
The military-dominated NLA, which was hand-picked by the junta that seized control of the country in a May 2014 coup, was scheduled to have three closed-door readings of the seven proposed changes Thursday before voting later in the day.
Most of the amendments are related to the process of drafting and approving the next constitution, such as giving the junta's drafting committee more time to consider changes, allowing for the national referendum and stipulating what happens to the drafting committee if the charter is rejected at any stage.
One would allow previously banned politicians to take formal roles in the junta government, while another would allow officials to pledge allegiance to the king in front of a designated representative instead of the ailing monarch himself.
Criticism of the draft permanent charter is mounting on both sides of Thailand's political divide. The amendment would allow Thai voters a say in a referendum proposed for January 2016, though it isn't clear what form it would take.
Before it even makes its way to voters, the draft must first be approved by the junta's reform council and the junta itself. Some of the government's supporters have called for the process to be delayed altogether so that military rule can be extended for several more years until reforms can be put in place.
After taking power, coup leader-turned-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha initially indicated that elections could be held as early as late 2015 if there was no dissent, the country was at peace and a new constitution was in place. That time line has since been delayed to late 2016 and could slip further if the constitution is rejected and the drafting process must start again.