BANGKOK — Thailand’s military junta on Sunday extended its rule by at least seven months when its handpicked reform council rejected a constitution written by its own drafting committee.
The vote on Sunday was described by some commentators as political theater and contributed to what appears to be growing cynicism in Thailand toward the military’s reign. The vote in the National Reform Council was 135 against and 105 in favor. The junta will now appoint another body to start the process of writing a new constitution, a process that keeps the military in power well into 2016.
Thailand’s military, which seized power from a democratically elected government in May 2014, has given vague promises about a return to democracy. But it seems to be in no hurry to do it.
Sangsit Phiriyarangsan, a member of the National Reform Council who voted to pass the constitution, said he believed it was voted down because of a desire to postpone elections.
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“They are afraid that if an election takes place, it may lead to indefinite chaos,” he said on Thai television. “They are in agreement that we should extend the junta’s rule to govern the country.”
If the constitution had passed it would have been put forward in a national referendum in January.
The military has absolute power in Thailand; the only remaining prominent elected official is the governor of Bangkok. Political parties are barred from politicking, and the junta last week revoked the passport of an outspoken politician.
Analysts said there were genuine disagreements and concerns about the draft constitution, including a provision that would have allowed for a “crisis” panel, including military members, to take control during times of “conflict that leads to violence.”
Yet after appointing the constitutional drafting committee and overseeing the writing of the charter, the military itself appeared to take a leading role in scuttling it. More than two dozen military members of the National Reform Council voted against the constitution on Sunday.
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