NEW THAI CONSTITUTION SETS STAGE FOR POLITICAL CHANGE
ruling militaryof Thailand hasajor stepeturn to limited constitutional.
The appointed nationalunanimously approved the draft constitutionhe finalrafting process begun nino years ago. The document must now be formally inscribed for the King's signature, the only remaining requirement, for promulgation.
The regime's decision to go ahead with therowing belief that promulgation wasand that stallingcould not continue Although there was no widespread popular pressure for the constitution, influential civilians in the country favor political liberalization and the government felt somo need to legitimize its rule. Inthe constitution is viewed by some of- the current leaders as both window dressing for Thailand's image abroad andotentially useful tool.for countering Communist propaganda in the countryside.
The constitution providesationwide legislative
election eight months after promulgation, but Prime Minister Thanom has already warned that the elections may be postponed. Although the powers of the elected lower house are carefully circuci-scribed, the military.leaders have expressed some reluctance to go ahead with possiblyelections in the faceersistent Communist irisur-gency. Their reluctance isalso prompted by slow prog-ress inovernment-sponsored party.
Promulgation will'add to an already increasing level ofactivity in civilian circles, however, and may create pressure for early elections. Even if it is unable to stall on the elections, the government has made clear that it intends toight rein on political activity. It will probably,not hesitate to seize on real orsecurity "threats" tofslow down the liberalization process*.
The wording of theand the power realities' in Thailand virtually ensure the continuing control of theeadership group. Nascent forces may be set in*motion, however, which will inenge the almost totalver Thailand's political life currently enjoyed_bv the military leadership.
Page WEEKLY SUMMARY ar 61Original document.