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Junta gets expanse of powers in document

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

BANGKOK — Thailand's new temporary constitution that gives the military government sweeping powers in the run-up to a planned October 2015 election also allows the leader of the current ruling junta to become interim prime minister, a senior army official said Wednesday.

The document adopted Tuesday is the first step toward restoring electoral democracy in Thailand, two months after the army took power in a coup, but the junta will continue to hold substantial power even after an interim cabinet and legislature take office in September.

Although the interim charter is supposed to pave the way for civilian rule, it gives the junta — officially called the National Council for Peace and Order — what amounts to supreme power over political developments. It also legalizes all actions the junta has taken since the coup, as well as the takeover itself.

The members of the National Legislative Assembly will be appointed by the junta, and in turn will nominate a prime minister. The prime minister will then pick a Cabinet, which must be confirmed by the assembly.

The 48-article charter also lays out the process by which a permanent constitution will be drafted and adopted.

While the charter gives the military rulers almost supreme authority over politics, Wissanu Krea-ngam, a legal adviser to the junta, said Wednesday that the military would handle only peacekeeping and security matters, even though the interim constitution clearly gives it the final word on all important issues.

Analysts have raised concerns about the enormous power granted to the junta chief.

“This gives the power for the NCPO to commit any actions that might contradict or even go beyond the power given under this constitution,” said Ekachai Chainuvati, a law lecturer at Bangkok's Siam University. “It states explicitly that he can perform any actions, such as reshuffling civil servants, drafting any laws or even punishing people judicially.”

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