An upstart Thai opposition politician vying to become prime minister called for change on Wednesday, as both houses of parliament convened for the first time since a 2014 coup to vote for either him or the chief of the ruling junta to be leader. The vote will officially restore civilian rule after more than five years under junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has been nominated to stay on as prime minister by a coalition led by the pro-army Palang Pracharat Party. The retired general is considered to have a big advantage over Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a charismatic political newcomer nominated by the opposition Democratic Front of seven parties that want to remove the military from politics. “Coups will only lead Thailand to dead-ends … We must make parliament a place of honour, not a place where people’s faith goes to die,” Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a speech just outside the parliamentary chamber. “I am ready to be Thailand’s next prime minister … I will be the prime minister of change.” Thanathorn was barred from taking up his seat in the lower house last month after being suspended, pending a ruling by the Constitutional Court on his alleged illegal holding of shares in a media company. He denied the allegation and said the case was the latest politically motivated bid to block him from politics. The vote for a prime minister who will form the next government this month, comes 10 weeks after a March 24 general election the opposition says was
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
Thailand’s pro-army Palang Pracharat party was looking for coalition partners on Thursday from a wide field of potential allies as it seeks to keep military junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a 2014 coup, in office as prime minister.
The party is expected to easily form the next government, since it needs only a few more votes in the elected House of Representatives to choose the prime minister under complicated new electoral rules written by the military regime.
Palang Pracharat is expected to be joined by the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties as well as 11 other smaller parties that are not affiliated with either the pro-army camp or the Democratic Front of parties opposing the military, said Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political scientist from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University,
“Prayuth will certainly be prime minister,” under this scenario, he said, but he added that the government would likely be unstable, with only a slim majority in the House.
Long-delayed results of Thailand’s first election since a 2014 military coup released on Wednesday produced no clear winner but gave a pro-army party a clear advantage in its bid to install the current junta leader as an elected prime minister.
The opposition threatened legal action against Wednesday’s results, saying that a new seat allocation formula robbed the “democratic front” alliance of a majority in the 500-seat House of Representatives.
The results are likely to set up a period of coalition building, since neither the pro-military bloc of parties nor a “democratic front” opposition alliance so far has enough votes to elect a prime minister under rules written by the junta.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Saturday completed Buddhist and Brahmin rituals to symbolically transform him into a living god as the Southeast Asian nation crowned its first monarch in nearly seven decades. The coronation of King Vajiralongkorn, 66, took place inside the Grand Palace throne hall in Bangkok after a period of official mourning for his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016 having reigned for 70 years.
The king sat on a golden throne under a nine-tiered umbrella to receive royal regalia including a gold-enameled, diamond-tipped crown in ceremonies that mixed glittering pomp with solemn religious rites.
The monarch was joined by new Queen Suthida after a surprise announcement three days before the coronation that the thrice-divorced monarch had married for a fourth time.
His coronation comes amid the uncertainty of an unresolved election battle between the current military junta chief and a “democratic front” trying to push the army out of politics.
“I shall continue, preserve, and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever,” the king said in his first royal command.
Mr Viroj, a police lieutenant-general, was the only name on the leadership ballot, the party said in a briefing on Sunday (Oct 28). The party added it will decide later if Mr Viroj – who was once a deputy prime minister in an earlier Thai administration – will be its candidate for prime minister in the national poll.