Military government chief Prayuth Chan-ocha elected Thai PM | Thailand News

Thailand‘s new parliament elected military government chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as the country’s prime minister late Wednesday, completing a transition from coup leader to head of a civilian government in a system seen tilted in his favour.

He comfortably reached the 375 vote threshold to give him the majority needed to fend off his sole challenger, a charismatic billionaire heading up the anti-military government coalition.

Prayuth received 500 votes to 244 for Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of the Future Forward party. 

The 65-year-old general will continue to rule as head of a civilian government as opposed to a military dictatorship. Critics say the semi-democratic system will prolong rule by the military and its allies in the conservative establishment, rather than reflect the will of everyday Thais.

Prayuth’s victory is largely attributed to the fact that all 250 senators were hand-picked by the military. The military-backed Palang Pracharat Party that nominated him as their prime ministerial candidate finished second in the March 24 general election.

Thailand senate

The 250-member senate was appointed by the Thai military that seized power in 2014 [Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP]

In a further boost for Prayuth, the Election Commission changed a seat distribution formula after the March poll for the 500-member lower house, effectively reversing a projected majority for the anti-military government Democratic Front, and denying it the power to block legislation or stage no-confidence votes.

“The people are still calling for liberties. The people are still calling for justice,” Thanathorn said after the vote. “This is not the time to lose hope. Hope is still on our side. Time is still on our side. I want to thank all 244 people who love democracy for voting for me.”

Prayuth made no immediate public comment on the vote.

Repressive rule

The former army chief staged a coup in May 2014, following months of large-scale demonstrations against an elected administration.

He made himself the leader of a military regime and was endorsed by late King Bhumibol Adulyadej as Thailand’s new prime minister a few months later. He held the position for five years.

The military government he ruled banned political activity, suppressed debate, restricted the media and arrested dissidents until just months before the March 24 general election.

The retired general is known for making offensive comments at times, having joked he would behead an actor for demanding an early election, and suggested that foreign women should refrain from wearing bikinis to avoid sexual assaults while holidaying in Thailand.

On several occasions, he said that too much democracy and freedom were to blame for the country’s political troubles.

Prayuth has also shown a dislike for journalists. In one notable incident that occurred the year he took power, he threw a banana peel at a group of reporters after they asked him to face the camera.

But he has tried to soften his military strongman image to win over the people, especially in the months leading up to the election.

He was seen on television cooking and dancing with the locals and is endearingly called Uncle Tu, his nickname, by his supporters.

Prayuth has reportedly composed many Thai songs asking the public to understand his good intentions and give him more time to solve the country’s problems.

Democrat Party support

Palang Pracharath member of Parliament Koranis Ngamsukonrattana praised Prayuth for his character and his vision.

“He’s patient and sacrificed himself so much for the country,” he said during the debate. “He’s the saviour who came in and saved the country when all hope was lost.”

Prayuth’s bid for power received a major boost late Tuesday, when the Democrat Party – the country’s oldest – said it would join the coalition government he aims to lead.

The decision led Democrat former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign from Parliament. He had promised during the election campaign to not support Prayuth’s bid to continue as prime minister.

The Democrats’ support also aided the chances of Palang Pracharath holding a majority in the lower house, which is necessary to pass legislation and approve budgets.

The Democrats and the Bhumjai Thai party, the fourth and fifth-place finishers in March, together hold more than 100 House seats, and reportedly had been bargaining hard with Palang Pracharath over Cabinet positions in a coalition government.

The Palang Pracharath coalition is opposed by the “Democratic Front”, comprising seven anti-military parties led by Pheu Thai, which headed the government overthrown in the 2014 coup and won the most House seats in March.


more recommended stories

  • North Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end | North Korea News

    North Korea fired two suspected short-range.

  • Amazon burning: Bolsonaro prepares to send army as outrage grows | Brazil News

    Under increasing international pressure to contain.

  • Canada bars consulate staff from travelling outside Hong Kong | Canada News

    The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong.

  • Ghana: Homecoming for African Americans | slavery

    Accra, Ghana – Afia Khalia Tweneboa.

  • Empty buses in Bangladesh as no Rohingya turn up for repatriation | News

    Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Ambia is.

  • Hong Kong police in standoff with protesters after sit-in | News

    Hong Kong riot police faced off.

  • Baffled Danes mock Trump after he scraps trip over Greenland | News

    President Donald Trump‘s decision to call.

  • Two killed in first Kashmir gun battle since lockdown began | India News

    Two people, including a police official.

  • Trump slammed for saying any Jew voting Democratic is ‘disloyal’ | USA News

    Activists, politicians and many within the.

  • Kashmir tensions: ‘War is not a solution’ | Kashmir News

    There is brewing conflict between nuclear-armed.

  • Indonesia’s Jokowi urges calm after violent West Papua protests | Indonesia News

    Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sought.

  • Danish PM: Trump’s idea of buying Greenland is ‘absurd’ | News

    Denmark‘s prime minister has said Greenland is.

  • Iran tanker departs after Gibraltar rejects US demand | Iran News

    The Iranian oil tanker at the.

  • Iceland bids farewell to first glacier lost to climate change | News

    With poetry, moments of silence and.

  • Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak in court for money laundering | Malaysia News

    Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

  • Blast at wedding in Afghan capital wounds at least 20: hospital | Afghanistan News

    An explosion has ripped through a.

  • Sudan protest leaders, military sign transitional government deal | News

    Sudan‘s main opposition coalition and the.

  • Tlaib won’t visit West Bank under ‘oppressive’ Israeli conditions | Israel News

    US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has said.

  • Brother of Afghan Taliban leader killed in Pakistan mosque blast | Afghanistan News

    The brother of Afghan Taliban leader.

  • Malaysia to question Zakir Naik as government weighs deportation | News

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The Malaysian.

  • Gibraltar Supreme Court says Iranian tanker is free to sail | News

    Gibraltar’s Supreme Court has ruled that.

  • Pehlu Khan lynching: Indian state to appeal acquittal of accused | News

    A provincial government in India has said.

  • Japan’s Abe skips Yasukuni shrine visit but sends offering | News

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has.

  • Analysis: Saudi activist rejects release deal | Saudi Arabia News

    Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.

  • Blast strikes military base in Iraq’s Baghdad | Iraq News

    At least one person has been.

  • Will China run out of patience with Hong Kong protests? | Hong Kong protests

    Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam is.

  • Kyrgyz ex-President Atambayev was plotting coup: Security chief | News

    Former Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, who.

  • Opposition warns Maduro eyeing to dissolve Venezuela parliament | Venezuela News

    Venezuela’s pro-government Constituent Assembly was holding.

  • Hong Kong airport cancels Monday flights amid sit-in protest | News

    Hong Kong airport has suspended all.

  • Israel expels Filipino worker with Israeli-born son: NGO | News

    A Filipino migrant worker and her.

  • Yemeni official: UAE won in Aden, Saudi silent over ‘slaughter’ | Yemen News

    The interior minister of Yemen‘s internationally recognised.

  • Could the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen soon fall apart? | Yemen

    The war in Yemen looks like.