Newspaper article International New York Times

Thai General Is Premier, Sealing Rule of Military

Newspaper article International New York Times

Thai General Is Premier, Sealing Rule of Military

Article excerpt

Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the overthrow of Thailand's government in May, was named prime minister on Thursday by a rubber-stamp legislature.

The army general who led the overthrow of Thailand's elected government in May was named prime minister on Thursday by a rubber- stamp legislature, sealing the military's acquisition of near- absolute power in a country once considered a regional beacon of political freedom.

The general, Prayuth Chan-ocha, was chosen as prime minister by the National Legislative Assembly, whose members were picked by the junta last month. There were no dissenting votes, and General Prayuth, who was at a military ceremony outside of Bangkok and was not present, was the only candidate.

Thailand has a long history of generals' seizing power, but the military this time has been more aggressive in rooting out democratic institutions than after the last coup, in 2006. All forms of popular elections have been suspended, including those for local councils that first appeared well over a century ago, when Thailand was still an absolute monarchy.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is 86 years old and ailing, endorsed the junta soon after the coup and is expected to formally approve General Prayuth's selection as prime minister.

The ascendance this year of military power in Thailand goes against a trend of democratization in Southeast Asia. In July in Indonesia, which for decades was ruled by a military strongman, a populist governor, Joko Widodo, defeated a former general to become president. Thailand's western neighbor, Myanmar, is embracing multiparty democracy after five decades of military dictatorship.

Thailand's military says it will eventually restore democracy. But the junta has not provided a timetable for elections, and an interim constitution introduced by the military says that democracy, when it is restored, will be "suitable for a Thai context," a vague qualification that has yet to be defined. …

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