BANGKOK — His Majesty the King on Thursday signed Thailand’s 20th constitution in the first such royal ceremony in 50 years.
King Rama X presided over the ceremony, broadcast live at 3pm from the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, where he endorsed the new constitution approved in a referendum last August.
The last time this traditional royal ceremony was held at the Throne Hall was in 1968, during the reign of His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol. It is usually held at the palace, and a public ceremony is not obligatory.
Today is a public holiday commemorating King Rama I’s ascension to the throne 235 years ago.
The new constitution is a controversial one. While it was approved in a landslide victory through a national vote, critics say many who voted for the draft did so because the junta never made clear what would have happened had they rejected it, and opponents of the charter were routinely punished for campaigning against it.
Although the junta and the charter drafters argue the constitution introduces better checks-and-balances as well as new mechanisms to stem corruption, pro-democracy activists and politicians warn it will open leeway for the military to interfere in politics.
It’s also a unique constitution, because the general public has yet to see it in its entirety. After King Rama X instructed the drafters in January to alter some provisions in the charter, changes were approved by the junta’s rubber stamp parliament, but the document itself was never released to the public.