Prayuth to Change Constitution at King’s Request

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks Dec. 20 at the Government House in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha Tuesday said His Majesty the King has asked for changes to the constitution approved by the public in August relating to his powers.

Prayuth said the 2014 interim charter would be amended to make it possible to change the already approved constitution after the king told members of his privy council he wanted some sections rewritten.

Although Prayuth reportedly said it would be done through his self-granted absolute power under Article 44, a deputy prime minister later clarified it would be done under Article 46, which requires the consent of the junta-selected cabinet and its rubber-stamp legislature. The change would enable the regime to pull the constitution, change it, then resubmit it to the new King for approval.

Prayuth said three or four issues would be amended in the section involving the authority and role of the king. He said it would not affect people’s rights and freedoms.

“It does not involve people’s rights and freedom at all,” Prayuth said Tuesday after meeting with his cabinet. “It is about His Majesty’s authority.”

Read: Charter Will Be Dropped Feb. 6 Without King’s Endorsement

Prayuth said the process to amend the charter would take no longer than a month. It would then go again to King Vajiralongkorn for endorsement up to three months later.

Within its 279 articles, the constitution includes provisions about the king’s role and powers such as his authority to appoint his privy council, confer nobility and other powers which rely on historic precedent.

Speaking Tuesday evening, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the articles to be rewritten include 5, 17 and 182. More could be amended if considered relevant, he said.

He said the junta and its cabinet decided to affect the change under Article 46 of the interim constitution put in place after the May 2014 coup.

Wissanu, who serves as the junta’s legal adviser, said a special committee with eight to 10 members would work on the amendment. The revised constitution will then be resubmitted for royal endorsement within 90 days after their work is completed.

Article 5 asserts the charter as the most supreme law of the land superseding all other law. Any issue not addressed by it shall rely on traditions of Thailand’s constitutional monarchy. Article 5 was derived from the previous Article 7, which past political movements have cited when asking the king to appoint a new prime minister during times of political turmoil.

The drafters changed the section in the new charter to say constitutional crises not addressed by the charter would be resolved with the head of the Constitutional Court calling a meeting between the heads of all three branches of power.

Article 17 says that if the king does not or cannot appoint a regent, as is required if he can’t execute his duties or is out of the country, his privy council will propose one to the parliament. That person will serve with parliamentary approval.

Article 182 says laws, royal edicts and proclamations involving the state must be countersigned by a minister. The one who signs will be responsible for whatever the king orders.

The junta-appointed legislators made amending the 2014 interim constitution their urgent item on the agenda for their Friday meeting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated Gen. Prayuth said amending the interim constitution would take a month’s time. In fact he said the entire amendment process would be finished within a month.