Nobody in the rubber-stamp legislature opposed the selection of the 60-year-old army chief, who ousted an elected government in a bloodless takeover on May 22
Thailand’s junta-picked National Assembly on Thursday chose coup leader General Prayut Chan-ocha as prime minister in a one-horse race that entrenched the military’s hold on power.
Nobody in the rubber-stamp legislature opposed the selection of the 60-year-old army chief, who ousted an elected government in a bloodless takeover on May 22.
The move by the top general to shed his uniform and take the premiership is seen as cementing the military’s control of the politically turbulent nation.
The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has ruled out holding new elections before around October 2015, despite international appeals for a return to democracy.
“The generals clearly do not plan to restore democracy,” said Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of paving the way for a return to democratic civilian rule, the NCPO has granted itself unchecked authority to do almost anything it wants, including committing rights abuses with impunity.”
Prayut, who is due to retire as army chief in September, is seen as a staunch opponent of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whose overthrow in an earlier coup in 2006 triggered Thailand’s long-running political crisis.
Thaksin – whose sister Yingluck was dismissed as premier in a controversial court ruling just before this year’s coup – fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.
Following the 2006 putsch – now widely seen as a failure in light of the subsequent political turmoil- the junta handed the reins to an army-backed premier who oversaw a series of policy blunders that damaged the economy. Observers say Prayut was anxious not to allow history to repeat itself.