First Look at Major Changes to the New Thai Constitution

King Vajiralongkorn presents the new constitution to junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — The constitution that went into effect Thursday was different from what the public approved last year, with substantive changes in sections pertaining to the powers and authority of the monarch.

Removing the king’s need to appoint a regent when he is absent and mechanisms for resolving political crises were among significant changes to the charter signed into law today, changes made months after the public approved it by a wide margin.

The constitution was published in the Royal Gazette a few hours after His Majesty the King signed it during a royal ceremony.

Compare: Before and After: Read the 5 Articles Rewritten After Thai Constitution Approved

In January, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told media the king wanted changes to the sections outlining the extent of his authority before he would sign it.

Changing the constitution from what was approved in the referendum was made possible under Article 46 of the junta’s interim constitution, by the consent of the junta-selected cabinet and its rubber-stamp legislature. The prime minister was then able to pull the constitution, change it, and resubmit it to the king for approval.

The changes were mostly similar to what junta’s legal advisor Wissanu Krea-ngam announced in January. He said the articles that would be rewritten in the draft constitution included articles 5, 17 and 182 and others, if relevant.

Crisis Powers

In the draft charter, Article 5 establishes the constitution as the most supreme law of the land superseding all other law. Any issue it does not address should rely on the traditions of Thailand’s constitutional monarchy.

Article 5 is derived from the previous charter’s Article 7, which political movements have cited when asking the king to appoint replace the prime minister during times of political turmoil.

In the one approved by the people in August, the drafters had removed that power by stipulating that constitutional crises not addressed by the charter would be resolved with the head of the Constitutional Court after calling a meeting between the heads of all three branches of power.

These clauses were dropped from the constitution signed into law by the king today.

Appointment of Regents

Other amended articles involved the appointment of a regent when the king cannot exercise his duties due to being abroad or incapacitated, namely articles 16, 17 and 19.

In the August version, Article 16 said the king must appoint someone to serve as regent in an order that must be signed by the head of the parliament.

The new Article 16 makes appointing a regent optional, and states that it may be a group of people.

The original Article 17 said that if the king is unable to appoint a regent as required because he is incapacitated or abroad, his privy council will propose one for approval by the parliament.

The new Article 17 added the clause which says the privy council will be chosen from a list already prepared by the king and given to the legislature, which gets no say in the decision.

Article 19 says the regent must vow in front of the parliament assembly, while the new version says anyone who had previously served in that position does not need to make the vow.

Ministerial Accountability for Orders

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

The new version removed the last clause about accountability.

The constitution still consists of 279 articles equal to the draft version.

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