Prayuth Chan-ocha - Today in Thailand Headline

Born in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, Prayuth began his career at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, which is considered to be Thailand’s West Point. As a young officer, he won the Ramathipodi medal, the country’s top honor for gallantry in the field. “When I was young, patriotism was all about joining the army, fighting in the front line for your country,” he says. “I told myself that I had to dedicate my life for my homeland and the monarchy.” The royal family is treated with almost divine reverence in Thailand. Prayuth strengthened ties with the royal household and earned himself the nickname Little Sarit, after Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who seized power through a putsch in 1957 and helped raise the monarchy to its paramount role in Thai society. Today every Thai household displays a portrait of the monarch as the highest picture in the room. And the country boasts some of the world’s strictest royal defamation laws, which are increasingly being used to crush dissent. Many believe Prayuth’s coup was meant to ensure that Thailand’s elites remained in control during a sensitive time of royal succession. Thailand’s new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn, leads an unconventional lifestyle and does not command the same respect that his father did. Prayuth says simply that he took control to restore order. “I could not allow any further damage to be done to my country,” he says, with a dash of histrionics. “It was at the brink of destruction.” Prayuth was only four months…

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