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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More