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Rights Group Slams Thai Military Junta

  • VOA News

FILE - Protesters push Thai soldiers with shields during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2014.

FILE - Protesters push Thai soldiers with shields during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2014.

A leading human rights group says General Prayuth Chan-ocha's appointment as Thailand's prime minister "does not advance human rights or a return to democratic rule," saying widespread repression continues three months after the military seized power.

Thursday's unanimous election of the 60-year-old army chief was a foregone conclusion, since he was the only candidate for the post. Prayuth has led the junta since forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government out of power on May 22.

In a statement Friday, Human Rights Watch said the junta "continues its crackdown on those exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms and has made no genuine progress towards restoring democratic rule."

It said the military "has enforced widespread censorship, largely banned public gatherings and other political activity, carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and disregarded allegations of torture and ill-treatment."

Prayuth will step down as army chief next month. He plans to stay in power until new elections are held in late 2015.

Thailand has been plagued by political unrest since 2006, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra's older brother, was also ousted in a military coup. Thaksin and his sister were bitterly opposed by Bangkok's traditionalist political elite.

Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, has been living overseas in self-imposed exile to avoid prison on corruption charges.

The new prime minister says he wants to impose a series of political reforms aimed at restoring order, but critics see the takeover as an attempt to wipe out Thaksin's influence.

Prayuth's election must be approved by Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a move that is believed to be a mere formality.

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