Thailand's coup government forms reform council

AP News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2014 7:35 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military has appointed a 250-member advisory group dominated by people close to the traditional ruling elite to help write a new national constitution.

The military abolished an earlier constitution after seizing power in a May 22 coup, and the government is currently operating under a temporary charter.

The new National Reform Council was officially endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and was announced Monday. It will advise a drafting committee that is to write a constitution to take effect by next July.

The new council is supposed to represent a cross-section of society, but is dominated by people close to the country's traditional elite, including businesspeople and technocrats. It shuns supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who challenged the elite and dominated Thai politics for much of the past 13 years.

The country's military rulers say the reform process will lead to elections late next year. The appointed interim prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, said earlier that the council will consider political, economic, social, environmental, judicial and other matters.

Thailand has suffered from political instability since 2006, when an earlier military coup ousted Thaksin on allegations of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect toward the king. Supporters and opponents of Thaksin have struggled for power at the ballot box and in the streets, sometimes violently.

The army said it needed to seize power from an elected pro-Thaksin government in May to restore order after half a year of anti-government protests and political turmoil that left at least 28 people dead and the government paralyzed.

But since taking power, the army appears to be carrying on the fight of the anti-Thakin protesters by mapping out a similar agenda to rewrite the constitution and institute extensive political reforms aimed at blocking his return to power. It has quashed most dissent, threatening or arresting critics of the coup.

Prayuth was named interim prime minister in August by an acting legislature dominated by military appointees. Prayuth retired from his position as army commander at the end of August.