First Look at Major Changes to the New Thai Constitution

BANGKOK — The constitution that went into effect Thursday was different from what the public approved last year, with substantive changes in sections pertaining to the powers and authority of the monarch.

Removing the king’s need to appoint a regent when he is absent and mechanisms for resolving political crises were among significant changes to the charter signed into law today, changes made months after the public approved it by a wide margin.

The constitution was published in the Royal Gazette a few hours after His Majesty the King signed it during a royal ceremony.

Before and After: Read the 5 Articles Rewritten After Thai Constitution Was Approved

Charter Approved by Public Charter Signed by King

ARTICLE 5 The Constitution is the supreme law of the State. The provisions of any law, rule, or regulation, or any action which are contrary to or inconsistent with the Constitution shall be unenforceable.

Whenever no provision under this Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be acted or decided in accordance with the constitutional practice in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State.

In the event where the circumstance under Paragraph Two arises, the President of the Constitutional Court shall convene a joint meeting of the President of the House of Representatives, the Opposition Leader in the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister, the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the President of the Constitutional Court, and the Presidents of Constitutional Organizations to make decision thereon. The joint meeting under Paragraph Three shall elect one among themselves to preside over each session. In case of the absence of any position holder, the joint meeting shall be composed of the existing holders of the positions. A decision of the joint meeting shall be made by the majority of votes. In case of an equality of votes, the presiding member shall have an additional vote as a casting vote. The decision of the joint meeting shall be deemed final and binding on the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Courts, the Constitutional Organizations, and State organs.

ARTICLE 5 The Constitution is the supreme law of the State. The provisions of any law, rule, or regulation, or any action which are contrary to or inconsistent with the Constitution shall be unenforceable.

Whenever no provision under this Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be acted or decided in accordance with the constitutional practice in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State.

ARTICLE 16 Whenever the King is absent from the Kingdom or unable to perform His functions for any reason whatsoever, the King will appoint a person as the Regent and the President of the National Assembly shall countersign the Royal Command. ARTICLE 16 Whenever the King is absent from the Kingdom or unable to perform His functions for any reason whatsoever, the King may or may not appoint a person or many people comprised as a group as the Regent and in that case, the President of the National Assembly shall countersign the Royal Command.
ARTICLE 17 In the case where the King does not appoint the Regent under Section 16, or the King is unable to appoint the Regent owing to His not being sui juris or any other reason whatsoever, the Privy Council shall submit the name of a person suitable to hold the office of the Regent to the National Assembly for approval. Upon approval by the National Assembly, the President of the National Assembly shall make an announcement, in the name of the King, to appoint such person as the Regent. ARTICLE 17 In the case where the King does not appoint the Regent under Section 16, or the King is unable to appoint the Regent owing to His not being sui juris or any other reason whatsoever, but the Privy Council later deems it is necessary to appoint a regent and cannot inform the King in time. The Privy Council shall submit the name of a person or a group of persons suitable to hold the office of the Regent respective to the order that the king had already appointed to the National Assembly. The President of the National Assembly shall make an announcement, in the name of the King, to appoint such person as the Regent.

ARTICLE 19 Before taking office, the Regent appointed under Section 16 or Section 17 shall make a solemn declaration before the National Assembly in the following words:

“I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to His Majesty the King (name of the King) and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will further uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

ARTICLE 19 Before taking office, the Regent appointed under Section 16 or Section 17 shall make a solemn declaration before the National Assembly in the following words:

“I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to His Majesty the King (name of the King) and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will further uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

A regent who was previously appointed and already made a solemn declaration is exempted from redoing it.

ARTICLE 182 All laws, Royal Rescripts and Royal Commands relating to the State affairs must be countersigned by a Minister, unless otherwise provided in the Constitution.

The person countersigning the Royal Command shall take charge of all affairs under the Royal Command.

ARTICLE 182 All laws, Royal Rescripts and Royal Commands relating to the State affairs must be countersigned by a Minister, unless otherwise provided in the Constitution.
Source: Unofficial United Nations translation Source: Khaosod English unofficial translation from constitution posted by Royal Gazette

In January, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told media the king wanted changes to the sections outlining the extent of his authority before he would sign it.

Changing the constitution from what was approved in the referendum was made possible under Article 46 of the junta’s interim constitution, by the consent of the junta-selected cabinet and its rubber-stamp legislature. The prime minister was then able to pull the constitution, change it, and resubmit it to the king for approval.

The changes were mostly similar to what junta’s legal advisor Wissanu Krea-ngam announced in January. He said the articles that would be rewritten in the draft constitution included articles 5, 17 and 182 and others, if relevant.

Crisis Powers

In the draft charter, Article 5

establishes the constitution as the most supreme law of the land superseding all other law. Any issue it does not address should rely on the traditions of Thailand’s constitutional monarchy.

Article 5 is derived from the previous charter’s Article 7, which political movements have cited when asking the king to appoint replace the prime minister during times of political turmoil.

In the one approved by the people in August,

the drafters had removed that power by stipulating that constitutional crises not addressed by the charter would be resolved with the head of the Constitutional Court after calling a meeting between the heads of all three branches of power.

These clause[s] were dropped from the constitution signed into law by the king today.

Appointment of Regents

Other amended articles involved the appointment of a regent when the king cannot exercise his duties due to being abroad or incapacitated, namely articles 16, 17 and 19.

In the August version, Article 16

said the King must appoint someone to serve as regent in an order that must be signed by the head of the parliament.

The new Article 16

makes appointing a regent optional, and states that it may be a group of people.

The original Article 17

said that if the king is unable to appoint a regent as required because he is incapacitated or abroad, his privy council will propose one for approval by the parliament.

The new Article 17

added the clause which says the privy council will be chosen from a list already prepared by the king and given to the legislature, which gets no say in the decision.

The [original] Article 19

says the regent must vow in front of the parliament assembly, while

the new version

says anyone who had previously served in that position did not need to make the vow.

Ministerial Accountability for Orders

The Article 182 of the draft charter said all laws, royal edicts and proclamations involving the state signed by the king must also be countersigned by a minister. The one who signs will be responsible for whatever the king orders.

The new version removed the last clause about accountability.

The constitution still consists of 279 articles, equal to the draft version.