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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs