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June 27, 2017

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New Thai King makes rare political intervention

BANGKOK -- Thailand's new king Maha Vajiralongkorn has requested sections of the country's draft constitution concerning royal powers to be rewritten, the junta chief said Tuesday, a rare public intervention by the monarch in the kingdom's politics.

Like most things regarding Thailand's secrecy-shrouded monarchy, Vajiralongkorn's approach to the crown remains a mystery and is not open to detailed scrutiny.

"His majesty's private principle secretary has sent a letter to the government saying discussion is needed on the section of the charter regarding the monarchy," the junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha told reporters.

The document was drafted by the junta after its 2014 power grab and approved in a controversial referendum last year in which independent campaigning was banned.

A senior junta official later confirmed to reporters that the articles in question include 5, 17 and 182.

The first two articles detail how the government should proceed in the event of a political crisis, plus the procedure for appointing a regent in the king's absence.

The third article in question says that all laws and royal edicts concerning the state must be countersigned by a government minister.

The request is an unusually assertive move by the palace — an institution long portrayed as staunchly "above politics" despite several key interventions by Bhumibol during times of political crisis.

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