Junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha formally became Thailand’s 29th prime minister yesterday after a royal endorsement, completing a long transformation from soldier to civilian leader and vowing “love, unity and compassion”.
But critics may doubt the divisive leader’s pledge after his previous stint in power which was marked by a ban on political gatherings, a clamp down on the media and the muzzling of dissent.
Thailand’s first parliament since the coup was stacked with 250 hand-picked senators who helped vote Prayut in as prime minister over the charismatic and embattled leader of the Future Forward party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
But he holds a razor-thin majority in the lower house in a country frustrated by the military’s influence on politics, with the hashtag #RIPThailand trending on Twitter after the vote.
Future Forward party scooped up 81 seats to become the third largest in Thailand.
Observers say Future Forward offered a fresh alternative for voters tired of familiar political camps.
For the past 13 years Thailand has been rocked by violent protests and takeovers in a broad split between supporters of the powerful Shinawatra clan and an arch-royalist elite backed by the military.