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Thailand's Draft Constitution Rejected By Council

Members of the National Reform Council at Parliament House in Bangkok on Sunday following a vote to reject the new draft constitution they spent nine months writing.

A hand-picked council that spent months writing a new constitution for Thailand has rejected its own final draft, which would have allowed the government extraordinary emergency powers. But the move ensures more months of delay that will keep in power the military junta that seized power in a coup last year.

Thomas Fuller, writing for The New York Times, says: "The [committee's] vote was described by some commentators as political theater and contributed to what appears to be growing cynicism in Thailand toward the military's reign. The vote in the National Reform Council [NRC] was 135 against the constitution and 105 in favor. The junta will now appoint another body to start the process of writing a new constitution, a process that keeps the military in power well into 2016."

The Bangkok Post reports that "[the] rejection of the draft charter was expected following heavy lobbying over the past week, reportedly by NRC members closely linked to the military."

After nine months of work that is now moot, a new committee must be formed, which will have another 180 days to draw up another constitution. The junta has said the approved charter will go to the people for a referendum.

As the BBC notes: "The draft has been widely criticized, in particular a clause which enables a 23-member panel to take over government during a 'national crisis.'"

The BBC's Jonathan Head says some members of the NRC say they rejected the draft to give Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army general who led the May 2014 coup, time to fix the country's ailing economy, which has suffered under military rule. There was also concern that hostility toward the draft could spark political tensions.

"So the timetable for a return to elected government is postponed to early 2017, but many people here expect it will slip back even further, some wondering whether Thailand can have an election before the end of the decade," the BBC correspondent writes.

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