Thailand Approves Military Constitution

Thailand Approves Military ConstitutionThailand Approves Military Constitution

A democratically elected government will take power in Thailand at the earliest by December 2017, a senior Thai official said on Monday, after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution paving the way for a general election.

Thais handed the junta of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha a convincing win in the referendum on Sunday, with preliminary results showing over 61% voted in favor.

Full results are due on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

A desire to see greater political stability drove the yes vote, analysts said. Thailand has been rocked by more than a decade of political turmoil that has stunted growth, two military takeovers and several rounds of often deadly street protests.

“We think there will be an election at the earliest in September or October 2017 and a new government by December 2017,” Chatchai Na Chiang Mai, spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee, said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Monday also said an election will take place in 2017, confirming the timeline Prayuth laid out ahead of the referendum.

Prior to the vote, Thailand’s major political parties had criticized the draft constitution, saying it would constrict democracy, including one provision calling for an appointed Senate with seats reserved for military commanders.

A second ballot question that would allow the Senate to elect a prime minister jointly with the lower house was also winning by a wide margin.

Interviews with military officers showed the military’s ambition was to make future coups unnecessary by weakening political parties and obliging future governments to follow a 20-year national development plan set by the army.

“The referendum result would legitimize the junta’s bid to extend its hold on power through the constitution,” said Sunai Phasuk, Thailand researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“It will embolden junta leader Prayuth to think he has millions of Thais behind him and it will extend military control not for one or two years but 20 years.”

Thai investors welcomed the result on Monday and the Thai stock market touched a fresh 16-month high.