Parliament confirms Thai coup leader Prayuth as prime minister

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha – who was not present for the vote — easily defeated Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (AFP / File photo)
Updated 05 June 2019
0

Parliament confirms Thai coup leader Prayuth as prime minister

  • The 500-244 vote came after a March 24 general election that opposition parties say was designed to extend and legitimize military dominance over government

BANGKOK: Thailand’s new parliament confirmed military junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha as civilian prime minister on Wednesday, five years after he seized power from an elected government while he was army chief.
The 500-244 vote came after a March 24 general election that opposition parties say was designed to extend and legitimize military dominance over government.
After a marathon day of debate, the now-retired army chief secured the 375 votes needed to become premier in a combined ballot by both houses of parliament, one of which was entirely appointed in a process controlled by the junta.
Prayuth — who was not present for the vote — easily defeated Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a charismatic political newcomer who was nominated by the opposition Democratic Front, which comprises seven parties that want to remove the military from politics.
Prayuth will now lead an unwieldy 19-party coalition government that has a slim majority in the lower House of Representatives, but could be vulnerable to defections and infighting.
Opposition lawmakers argued for hours that Prayuth was unfit for office.
“He (Prayuth) came to power in a coup, then comes in and completely changes the rules and conditions that allows him to stay on and transform himself into a prime minister candidate,” said Chonlanan Srikaew of the opposition Pheu Thai party.
However, the electoral rules of the 2017 post-coup constitution made it nearly impossible for the opposition to overcome the 250 votes of the Senate.
And Prayuth’s Palang Pracharat party said he deserved to stay in power for bringing an end to repeated paralysing street protests by opponents and supporters of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in an earlier coup in 2006.
“Prayuth has stepped in to solve the conflict ... and showed a great deal of leadership. He has been decisive possibly more than other past leaders,” said Palang Pracharat lawmaker Qur'anit Ngamsukonrattana.
The Democratic Front is led by Pheu Thai, which was ousted from power in 2014 and is allied to Thaksin, whose affiliated parties had until this year won every election since 2000.
In March, Pheu Thai won the most seats in the 500-seat elected House of Representatives. Prayuth’s Palang Pracharat party came second and Thanathorn’s Future Forward Party third.
After the preliminary results of the March election, the Democratic Front projected that it had won a majority in the House.
However, the election commission later announced a change in a seat-allocation formula that gave 10 small parties one seat each, mostly at the expense of Thanathorn’s Future Forward Party. The 10 small parties joined Prayuth’s alliance.
Uttama Savanayana, leader of Palang Pracharat, put a posting on his Facebook site after Wednesday’s vote saying the party “will look after the people and continue to lead Thailand forward.”
Thanathorn told reporters outside parliament that his party would continue to work to end military dominance.
“Today we did not lose. But because of the rules we have been robbed of victory,” he said. “If we continue to go forward strongly, one day they will lose.


Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

Updated 20 July 2019
0

Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests
  • Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong’s police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarization coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests — as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police — sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday’s rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
“Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves,” said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalized the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
“I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme,” Leung said.
Police estimated a turnout of 103,000 people at the peak of the rally, while local media cited organizers as saying 316,000 attended.
Hong Kong’s police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.
There is growing frustration among the police force’s exhausted rank and file that neither the city’s leaders, nor Beijing, seem to have any idea how to end the crisis.
Chinese state media and powerful pro-Beijing groups threw their weight behind the pro-police rally.
Saturday’s edition of Hong Kong’s staunchly pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a front page encouraging readers to join with the headline: “Kick away the violence.”
It featured a drawing of a large foot kicking over a pro-democracy demonstrator.
Many of those at the rally held aloft large slogans printed on the spread of Wen Wei Po, another stridently pro-Beijing newspaper in the city.
A rally last month by police supporters saw ugly scenes, with many participants hurling insults and scuffling with younger democracy protesters as well as media covering the gathering.
While the pro-government protests have mustered decent crowds, they have paled in comparison with the huge pro-democracy marches that have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of people.
Anti-government protesters are planning another large march Sunday afternoon and say they have no plan to back down until key demands are met.
Tensions were also raised after police on Saturday said they had discovered a homemade laboratory making high-powered explosives. A 27-year-old man was arrested and pro-independence materials were also discovered.
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.
But many say that 50-year deal is already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.
Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.