News / Asia

    Thai Junta Chief Promises Interim Government Just Months Away

    Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks at a meeting to discuss the 2015 national budget, at the Army Club in Bangkok, June 13, 2014.
    Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks at a meeting to discuss the 2015 national budget, at the Army Club in Bangkok, June 13, 2014.
    For the first time since the May 22 coup in Thailand, the general running the country has indicated a date for establishing an interim government.
     
    Army General Prayuth Chan-ocha has set a timeframe for establishing an interim government.

    Speaking to senior military officials and government bureaucrats, the head of Thailand’s junta announced “a government will be set up by August, or at the very latest, September.” But the army chief, known for his blunt manner, added “don't ask me who they are and where they come from.”
     
    There is speculation that Prayuth, due to retire from the military in September, could appoint himself prime minister.
     
    In an address focusing on next year’s national budget, the general, who seized power three weeks ago from the weakened caretaker government, reiterated a new temporary constitution is to be drafted within three months, but said it will be at least a year before general elections can take place.
     
    The army chief, while vowing to maintain a strong military, also defended the junta’s tinkering in matters large and small - from setting price controls to calling for free-to-air TV broadcasts of all the World Cup matches.

    A multi-billion dollar transportation project to build more rail lines and other infrastructure is again under consideration, the general said Friday. A court struck down the infrastructure project in March, ruling it was too expensive.

    Prayuth said, “I have not approved it yet. We have to ask the Budget Bureau how much money we have.”

    According to The Bangkok Post, the renewed project would cost $30 billion dollars more than its initial price of 3 trillion baht.
     
    Prayuth acknowledged criticism that the junta is “conducting populist policies, such as adjusting the tax structure and capping energy prices.” He explained that they are in reality “temporary measures to relieve hardship on the people.”
     
    General Prayuth also announced the ruling military body will not renew a controversial and costly scheme in which farmers pledge rice to the government in exchange for being paid 40 percent above the market price. 
     
    Farmers are owed $2.5 billion for the rice, and the army has begun making payments.
     
    The crop-pledging plan was a centerpiece of the administration of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but was criticized for leaving unsold rice rotting in warehouses amid allegations of corruption. A court ruling on key elements of the plan put pressure on her towards the end of her time in office.
     
    One goal of the coup, according to a junta spokesman, is to eradicate the influence of the Shinawatra family from Thai politics. Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was deposed in the previous coup in 2006.
     
    General Prayuth, an ardent royalist and career soldier, is appealing for patience, while noting the junta is enjoying a “honeymoon period,” which he said he hopes lasts longer. 
     
    The general said “we have to return happiness to the people, to all groups.” He added that the junta will not do anything that will impact, in the long term, the country’s fiscal system. He asked his audience to tell him if he orders anything wrong because, he said, “I am willing to listen to all comments.”
     
    But criticism of the junta is effectively muted, as the media are operating under military censorship, while the army and police vow to arrest those whose comments can incite unrest or are deemed to be political.
     
    Since the May 22 coup, several hundred people have been summoned by the military and most of them detained for a week or two. They include politicians, academics, activists and journalists. Some of those released say they had to sign a document stating they will not engage in political activity or leave the country.
     
    There have been some arrests of those displaying defiance against the coup at peaceful, small rallies. But a significant portion of the urban, middle class appears to support the military’s takeover.
     

    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Akearoon Auansakul from: Bangkok
    June 15, 2014 4:21 AM
    There may be someone monitoring your comments. If you're Thai, Should not it be better to keep quiet at this time? Better wait until the situation turns to normality where free speech and political comments are allowed.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora