BANGKOK Thailand published a draft constitution on Friday but the official in charge of drawing it up said he feared it would not resolve long-running troubles and critics said it would produce weak civilian government under the sway of the military.
The draft of Thailand's 20th constitution is to replace one scrapped after a 2014 coup by generals who promised stability in Southeast Asia's second biggest economy and to heal divisions after a decade of turbulence.
Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee, said his team had included clauses aimed at reconciliation but it had failed to come up with easy remedies.
"In terms of finding a solution for the current situation, we really could not think it up and have told the prime minister so," Meechai told reporters.
A government roadmap for a mid-2017 election would be delayed by a "minimum of two to three months", he said.
At the heart of Thailand's fractious politics is rivalry between the Bangkok-based royalist-military establishment and populist former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies.
The military government has curbed dissent and pushed back the timetable for elections raising concern about the prospects of a country that was for years hailed as an example of a successfully developing Asian economy.
The government will put the draft to a referendum, expected in July, but opposition to it is simmering across the political spectrum.
The government made a new constitution a prerequisite for an election and a military appointed council rejected a previous draft in September.
Criticism of the new draft has raised the possibility of a return to democracy being derailed again but Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said this week a vote would go ahead in mid-2017, even if under an old constitution.
Critics say the draft is aimed at consolidating the military's power.
"This constitution will lead the country to a dead end," said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former education minister and member of the pro-Thaksin government toppled in 2014.
"It takes power from the people and will make an elected government weak and unable to stay for long."
The constitution will also be harder to amend than previous ones and the junta will retain powers until a new government is elected, including a much-criticized clause to counter any threat to national security.
"I don't think the people will accept this," said Nipit Intharasombat, deputy leader of the pro-establishment Democrat Party, referring to several elements of the draft including the possibility a prime minister would be appointed, not elected.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)