[JURIST] The lead legal consultant for the military regime that took over the Thai government [JURIST report] in a bloodless coup in September was elected Tuesday to serve as speaker of the National Legislative Assembly [member list], which is tasked with creating a new permanent constitution for Thailand [JURIST news archive]. Meechai Ruchupan, who also helped draft the country's interim constitution [JURIST report], won by a great margin over the other two candidates with 167 votes cast during a secret ballot by the 242 assembly members. Critics have been quick to charge Meechai with being a supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] because he aided Thaksin and past coup leaders in developing laws and was speaker of the Thai senate for two terms. Meechai denied the criticism, expressing optimism that the controversy would lessen after the vote.
Members of the National Legislative Assembly were hand-selected by the military regime and approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej [profile]. Generals and other officers from Thailand's army, navy and air force have assumed 35 seats, while the remaining members are comprised of religious leaders, bankers, media representatives, and anti-Thaksin leaders. The assembly is responsible for writing the country's new permanent constitution, which will be subject to a referendum and then voted on in the general election next year. King Adulyadej has already approved a new 39-article interim constitution [JURIST report; text], which provides for a civilian government but preserves the military's say in policy, including the power to dismiss the civilian administration. Reuters has more.