Thailand's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) appoints Top General as Prime Minister

Aug. 21, 2014, 5:21 p.m.

Thailand’s 200 member National Legislative Assembly (NLA) unanimously voted General Prayuth CHAN-OCHA, 60, to be prime minister on Thursday 21 August. He was the sole candidate. Mr. CHAN-OCHA was the leader of the military coup that deposed the elected government in May this year. He is slated to select a cabinet to govern shortly. In fact, as the New York Times reported, "Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej has endorsed the junta and is expected to approve the selection of Mr. CHAN-OCHA as prime minister." Earlier this month on 8 August, NLA members met for the first time to elect Supreme Court Judge Pornpetch WICHITCHOLCHAI as assembly president.

NLA members were appointed in late July 2014 by country’s military junta, which took power in a bloodless military coup that deposed the democratically elected government on 22 May 2014. There are 105 members that hold military ranks, 11 from the police, and 84 civilian members that include academics, business executives, technocrats and former senators. In June 2014, the junta announced that it would set up an interim constitution in July 2014. This constitution, Mr. CHAN-OCHA claimed, would allow an interim legislature and cabinet to start governing the country in September [2014]. The General also said that a longer term charter would take effect by July 2015, and pave way for legislative elections in October 2015.

Recent actions by the junta, such as instituting an interim constitution, appointing individuals to the parliament, and having Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) accuse deposed Prime Minister Yingluck SHINAWATRA of “abusing power by using public funds to campaign for election,” are seen as an attempt to legitimize the military’s takeover of the government. The junta enjoys significant support, due to the political instability brought by six months of protests that sought to unseat Ms. SHINAWATRA. While the junta claims that elections and a longer-term constitution will be implemented in a year, these changes may further consolidate aristocratic and military control over civilian politics.  

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