Thu Apr 6, 2017 3:26PM
Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun is seen paying respects at the statue of King Rama I after signing the military-backed constitution in Bangkok on April 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun is seen paying respects at the statue of King Rama I after signing the military-backed constitution in Bangkok on April 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has finally signed the country’s new constitution despite criticisms that the charter will allow the military and unelected people to keep their grip on power for a long time.

Bodindradebayavarangkun rubber-stamped the charter on Thursday during a ceremony at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in the Thai capital of Bangkok.

Senior members of Thailand’s military government as well as foreign diplomats attended the elaborate event, which came on Chakri Day, the annual holiday marking the establishment of the Chakri dynasty.

Bodindradebayavarangkun, who inherited the throne from his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej after he died in October, will see his powers increased in the new constitution. The charter is the 20th approved in Thailand since the country celebrated the collapse of absolute monarchy in 1932.

The Thai people had approved the charter in a public referendum last August. The junta government, which grabbed power three years ago in a coup, has promoted the new constitution as a major step towards holding new elections in Thailand. It has said that the votes would come no later than November 2018, although previous promised poll dates have been delayed.

Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (C) is escorted after paying respects to the monument of King Rama I following the signing of the military-backed constitution in Bangkok on April 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The new constitution has also been touted as a necessity for Thailand to move past more than a decade of political unrest and social division.

Critics, however, fear that the charter, which was drafted by a panel of junta-backed experts, would deepen divisions in Thailand.

They have also censured the undemocratic mechanisms devised in the document, saying unelected bodies would be empowered by limiting the power of voters as the constitution allows the appointment of a senate that would include military commanders while it neuters the authority of elected officials.

Many said that the major ceremony held Thursday and the fact that high-profile figures were in attendance raised hopes that Thailand would at least rely on the new constitution for a longer time compared to the previous charters.