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Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn orders amendment to new draft constitution

The file photo shows ’s then crown prince and current king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, taking part in a ceremony to pay respects to his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. (Photo by AFP)

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has ordered a series of amendments to the new draft constitution in the first case of such intervention by the new monarch since he took power last month.
The head of the National Council for Peace and Order, the military junta which currently rules Thailand, said on Tuesday that Vajiralongkorn had declined to approve the new charter because of clauses concerning royal powers.
“His majesty’s private principle secretary has sent a letter to the government saying discussion is needed on the section of the charter regarding the monarchy,” Prayut Chan-O-Cha said, adding that the amendments would mostly affect “three or four points” that concern the authority of the king.
Prayut did not say which specific clauses of the draft would be altered but said that the entire revision process would take several months.
Thailand’s junta drafted the new constitution after it seized power in a coup in 2014. The document was approved in a controversial referendum last year despite criticism that the plebiscite lacked independent campaigning.
If endorsed, the draft would be Thailand’s twentieth in less than a century of the kingdom’s rule. Vajiralongkorn, now 64, succeeded his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October.
The monarch has limited formal powers under the current charter but the institution has traditionally enjoyed warm relations with the military while it wields significant political clout behind the scenes and controls vast wealth. The media and the public in Thailand are also banned from criticizing the king.
The late Bhumibol was a unifying figure who reigned for seven decades in Thailand. Despite several key interventions during the times of political crises, he insisted to remain “above .” He had close ties with the military and signed off on a dozen coups during his reign.