In an ancient royal ceremony broadcast live on national television and not seen in almost 50 years, His Majesty King Rama X on Thursday signed Thailand’s 20th constitution approved in a controversial referendum last August. The endorsement is usually held at the palace and a public ceremony is not obligatory.
The promulgation of the new charter paves the way to the kingdom’s first general election since the May 2014 coup to be held by the end of 2018 at the latest. A date for a new general election and a formal return to democracy had previously been postponed several times.
So while these are technically good news for a politically divided nation that has now been under military rule for almost three years, the development is to be treated with caution and it still remains to be seen how “democratic” in the Western sense the new charter will actually be.
Khaosod English comment (and there isn’t much to add):
The new constitution is a controversial one. While it was approved in a landslide victory through a national vote, critics say many who voted for the draft did so because the junta never made clear what would have happened had they rejected it, and opponents of the charter were routinely punished for campaigning against it.
Although the junta and the charter drafters argue the constitution introduces better checks-and-balances as well as new mechanisms to stem corruption, pro-democracy activists and politicians warn it will open leeway for the military to interfere in politics.
It’s also a unique constitution, because the general public has yet to see it in its entirety. After King Rama X instructed the drafters in January to alter some provisions in the charter, changes were approved by the junta’s rubber stamp parliament, but the document itself was never released to the public.