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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora