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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs