By Max Constant
Thailand's new king is seeking to amend some provisions in a draft constitution so he will not be required to appoint a regent every time he leaves the country’s territory, local media reported Thursday.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 64, recently ascended to the Thai throne following the October death of his father -- the highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej -- under a military government that seized power in a May 2014 coup and abolished the country’s previous constitution.
Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), told The Nation that the amendment would give the king the option of “either appointing or not appointing a regent should he not reside in the Kingdom”.
While still crown prince under his father's reign, Vajiralongkorn spent most of his time in Bavaria, Germany, where he owns two large mansions.
According to the draft constitution, which was approved in a referendum last August, there must be a regent whenever the king is absent from Thailand.
If the king does not name a regent, the president of the Privy Council -- an advisory body to the king -- automatically becomes regent pro tempore.
Currently the Privy Council’s chairman is 96-year-old former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, who some observers have sometimes described as not being on good terms with the new monarch.
The junta has agreed to go along with the new king’s wishes and the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will discuss the matter Thursday in order to begin the process of amending the draft charter.
In a statement announcing that the king wanted to amend “three or four provisions” of the draft charter, junta chief-cum-prime minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha had assured Monday that “the matter has nothing to do with the rights and liberties of the people” and “is only about royal power”.
Somchai Sawangkarn, a member of the NLA, was quoted by The Nation as saying Wednesday that “it might not be necessary [for the king] to name a regent because modern communication methods have made it easy and convenient to work remotely.”
After the draft charter will be returned by the Royal Palace to the CDC, the committee will have 30 days to amend the charter according to the king’s wishes before submitting the revised copy to him.
The king will then have 90 days to endorse the draft, which will otherwise be dropped.