(Bloomberg) -- Thailand formed a panel to draw up terms for a referendum to determine if the nation should re-write a military-drafted constitution that’s partly blamed for a months-long political deadlock that followed the general election earlier this year.
The 35-member committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai includes representatives of all the major political parties, legal experts and academics, nominees of non-government organizations and some government officials. The panel will hold its first meeting on Oct. 9, the government said in a statement.
The group will follow the guidelines previously issued by the Constitutional Court and its recommendations will be deliberated by the parliament before a referendum can be held. It will hold consultations with various sections of the society before finalizing the contours of the referendum, according to the statement.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who heads an 11-party coalition government, has promised to rewrite the 2017 charter that was written in the aftermath of a coup in 2014. Pheu Thai party, which heads the alliance and is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has touted a new charter as a way to heal bitter political divisions and return true democracy to a country marred by two coups in the last two decades.
The constitution was long seen as designed to entrench military influence in Thai politics, as it gave the military-appointed Senate the right to pick a prime minister alongside elected lawmakers in the lower house until early 2024. The Senate used that power to block the premiership bids of Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward Party that won the most seats in the May general election.
Previous attempts to amend the charter, drafted by allies of former coup-leader-turned prime minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, had failed due to the lack of support from at least a third of the 250-member upper house as required by the law.
The Srettha administration is aiming to amend the constitution and related organic laws within four years, according to government spokesman Chai Wacharonke. The sections related to monarchy, including the controversial royal insult law, also known as Article 112 of the criminal code, will not be touched in the charter rewrite, he said.
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