Thailand king endorses coup leader Prayuth as PM

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
In his first speech as PM, Gen Prayuth asked the public to work with the authorities to restore democracy

The Thai general who led May's coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has been officially appointed prime minister following endorsement by the king.

Gen Prayuth received the written royal command in a ceremony at Bangkok's army headquarters on Monday morning.

He plans to name his cabinet and seek royal approval for the line-up by October, according to reports.

Gen Prayuth was nominated last week by a legislature hand-picked by the junta. He was the only candidate.

Dressed in formal military uniform, the general knelt before a giant portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the ceremony to pay his respects.

The 86-year-old king, who is revered by many in Thailand, did not attend and is said to be in poor health.

Speaking after his appointment, Gen Prayuth asked the public to work with the authorities to restore democracy, reported The Nation.

He says the army had to stage its coup to end deadlock between protesters and the civilian government, amid violence that had killed dozens of people.

Protesters opposed to former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, then the elected prime minister, had staged drawn-out demonstrations calling for Ms Yingluck to step down.

Gen Prayuth told reporters over the weekend that he was ready to be prime minister, saying: "I am ready to get tired."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The general knelt before a portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was not present at the ceremony
Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Gen Prayuth's wife Naraporn (right) attended the ceremony along with junta officials

Prayuth Chan-ocha

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  • Began military career in the prestigious Queen's Guard unit, before rising to become a commander in the King's Guard
  • Took over as head of army in October 2010
  • Led the coup on 22 May that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra's civilian government, claiming military intervention was needed to bring stability to the country
  • Seen as a staunch royalist and has favoured a tough stance on the "red shirts" who support former PMs Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck
  • Made interim prime minister on 21 August
  • Due to retire from the army in September

The 60-year-old is concurrently the head of the army, although he is set to retire from that post on 30 September. He is also likely to be defence minister, reported The Bangkok Post .

Gen Prayuth is meant to be an interim prime minister as the military plans to hold a general election in late 2015.

But concerns have mounted that the military is seeking to strengthen its hold on the country.

Besides hand-picking the legislature, which is staffed mostly by military and police figures, the junta issued an interim constitution in July that gives the military sweeping powers.

Gen Prayuth will also oversee the establishment of a 250-member reform council to reform the political system.

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