Washington International Law Journal


Ted L. McDorman


In December 1991, Thailand enacted its fifteenth constitution since the Thai military's overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932. As was the case with most of the previous Thai constitutions, the promulgation of the 1991 Thai Constitution was preceded by a military coup. Further conforming to Thailand's constitutional history and tradition, the coup-leaders, after suspending the 1978 Constitution, attempted to enact a new constitution legitimizing the military's role in the government. Yet they were less successful than in the past as is indicated by the substance of the 1991 Constitution and the events surrounding its enactment. The public became involved in the constitution drafting process by voicing its opposition to provisions empowering military and government officials at the expense of elected representatives. Consequently, although the executive branch of government remains dominant, the provisions of the 1991 Constitution afford the elected House of Representatives greater political power than in the past vis-i-vis both the appointed Senate and the Council of Ministers. Moreover, there appears to be a greater willingness by the judiciary to challenge government actions, and several governmental reforms and constitutional amendments are currently under consideration. Thus, while much of the past authoritarian constitutional tradition remains intact in the 1991 Constitution, these changes signal the possible emergence of new, more representative constitutional traditions in Thailand. This article analyzes the events surrounding the enactment of the 1991 Constitution as well as the relevant provisions of the new Constitution in light of Thailand's constitutional, political, social, and cultural history.

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