News / Asia

    Thailand’s New Military-Based Cabinet Meets King

    Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cabinet complete a photo session after meeting with King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok Sept. 4, 2014.
    Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cabinet complete a photo session after meeting with King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok Sept. 4, 2014.
    Reuters

    Thailand's new military-stacked cabinet met King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on Thursday, marking the formal start of an administration that will spend at least a year overhauling the political system before calling an election.

    The leader of a May 22 coup, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is now prime minister, has said he wants a year of reforms to culminate in a late 2015 election. But observers say there are signs a power transfer could be delayed.

    "Prayuth has given himself several tasks to attend to while he is appointed prime minister," said Paul Chambers, research director at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs, affiliated with Chiang Mai University.

    FILE - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, shown in June 2012FILE - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, shown in June 2012
    x
    FILE - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, shown in June 2012
    FILE - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, shown in June 2012

    "These could likely legitimize a reason for him to extend his term as prime minister and thus consolidate the power of his military faction and himself."

    Dressed in a white military uniform, Prayuth, 60, led his cabinet to Bangkok's Siriraj hospital. King Bhumibol, 86, has been staying there while he undergoes a health checkup, the palace said.

    Tamping down influence

    The army seized power after months of Bangkok protests by royalist establishment supporters against Yingluck Shinawatra, caretaker prime minister since her older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted in a 2006 coup.

    Analysts say the coup’s leaders want to end the Shinawatra family's influence. Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecom tycoon and populist premier, lives in exile in Dubai to avoid a jail term for graft but retains huge support, especially among rural people. The royalist establishment views him as a threat.

    The military-backed government installed after the 2006 coup rewrote the constitution to try to curb Thaksin's sway. But that failed to derail his political juggernaut and his sister, Yingluck, swept a 2011 election to become the caretaker prime minister.

    "Rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling among the generals that the armed forces is the only institution in Thailand that is capable of revamping the political landscape and rooting out Thaksin's influence," Ambika Ahuja, a Southeast Asia specialist at Eurasia Group, a New York-based political risk consultancy, told Reuters in an email.

    Amassing power

    Since taking control, Prayuth has rolled out a temporary constitution that grants the military absolute powers. He hand-picked an interim parliament stacked with military figures that appointed him prime minister.

    The military government is striving to revive an economy that contracted in the first half of the year. Though the situation is improving, recent data suggested a broad-based recovery is some way off.

    The new cabinet’s economic adviser is one of its few civilians, Pridiyathorn Devakula, 67. The former central bank governor was finance minister in the government set up by the military after the 2006 coup. But he bungled an attempt to impose capital controls to prop up the currency, leading to a sharp fall in the stock market.

    His appointment has garnered mixed reactions.

    "I don't think he is a stand-out to foreign investors and any who have followed Thailand for a long time remember his capital controls mistake," Andrew Stotz, chief executive at A. Stotz Investment Research in Bangkok, told Reuters.

    Others say he is respected in the international financial community and, as economics adviser to the junta, has helped ease foreign investor concerns about stability.

    But democracy, said Chambers, may have to wait.

    "Prayuth's promises to achieve multiple goals also gives them what they perhaps perceive as a mandate to remain in power until these objectives are reached," said Chambers.

    "Only one year until elections? I doubt it."

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.