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

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs