[JURIST] Thailand’s military government announced on Tuesday it will hold a referendum on a new constitution, likely delaying the general elections scheduled for mid-2016. Thailand is currently operating under a temporary charter [AP report] as its previous constitution was abolished after a coup last May. A committee [BBC report] will convene in August and, if it approves the draft constitution, it would take at least three to six months to distribute copies of the constitution to the public and hold the referendum. The new constitution’s provisions include unelected positions in the upper house and a proportional representation system for elections. The completed draft of the constitution was announced [JURIST report] by the Thai Constitution Drafting Committee in April.
The military took control of the Thai government after a coup in May 2014, overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Martial law was instituted on May 20, two days before the coup [JURIST report] that ousted the former Thai government and installed General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile] as the country’s new prime minister. A group of Thailand human rights activists denounced [JURIST report] and called for an end to the country’s state of martial law in September. The previous month, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] that the prosecution and sentencing of lese majeste cases by Thailand’s ruling military junta threaten citizens’ rights of free expression. Last June a group of independent UN human rights experts urged [JURIST report] Thai authorities to reverse all measures affecting basic human rights and to restore democratic rule in the country. Shortly after the coup last May, the Thai military released several statements [JURIST report] banning meetings of more than five people and imposing nightly curfews. Prayuth announced in April that the country’s military government will lift martial law [JURIST report] and replace it with a new security order.