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Thai king signs junta's new constitution

  • Published at 11:40 am April 6th, 2017
Thai king signs junta's new constitution

Thailand's king signed a new military-backed constitution on Thursday that strengthens the army's hand in government and puts the country on the path to polls after three years of junta rule.

The military says the charter, Thailand's twentieth since 1932, will curb unrest in the politically-split kingdom and keep out corrupt lawmakers.

But opponents say the new document means any polls, whose date keeps slipping, will only offer Thais a form of neutered democracy with a fully appointed senate and tough controls on elected politicians.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the throne following the October death of his widely revered father Bhumibol Adulyadej, signed the document in a televised ceremony in Bangkok on Thursday afternoon.

In a solemn and ritual-laden ceremony, the 64-year-old king inked three copies of the document, which were then stamped by white-clad officials and placed on gilded pillars before the monarch.

An official then read the charter's preamble.

"This constitution aims to fully rid the country of corruption, abuses of power and prevent corrupt politicians from taking office," the official read to an audience of political grandees, including junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, and ambassadors in the ornate throne hall.

Vajiralongkorn surprised many earlier this year by ordering rewrites to parts of the constitution that deal with his powers, a move that delayed its promulgation and the date for elections.

But in a sign of the opacity surrounding all things royal in Thailand, a country with a strictly enforced lese majeste law, authorities have yet to release the wording of those new sections.

The charter received popular approval in a referendum last August, although the junta barred campaigning against it.

The generals have severely curbed free speech since their power grab by outlawing all political activities, muzzling the press and detaining scores of critics.

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