Thailand’s government agreed Tuesday to hold a public referendum on the newly drafted constitution, the prime minister and junta leader said, indicating that the decision could delay a general election.
The move to amend the interim charter to allow the referendum comes after calls by several sides, including the charter’s drafters, for the public to be able to vote on whether they approve of the constitution.
The military abolished an earlier constitution after it took over power from an elected government in a May 2014 coup, and the government operates under a temporary charter. The junta later picked the drafters and a 250-member National Reform Council to help write a new constitution.
The Cabinet and the National Council for Peace and Order, the junta’s official name, agreed at a meeting Tuesday to hold the referendum, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
He said the process would take about three months and would affect the political road map that was laid out by the junta after the coup.
This means a referendum will likely delay a general election that the government has said could take place early next year.
Critics say the newly drafted constitution is aimed at preventing a political comeback by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup after being accused of corruption and disrespect for the king. Thailand has remained divided since, with Thaksin’s supporters and opponents struggling for power at the ballot box and in the streets, sometimes violently.
Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra was deposed as prime minister in last May’s coup.