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
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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.


Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

Updated 16 July 2019
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Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

  • Iceland spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the Philippines' deadly anti-drug crackdown
  • Philippine police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016.

MANILA: The Philippine president is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters late Monday that the Iceland-initiated resolution which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in a vote last week in Geneva showed “how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs.”
Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte “is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland” for initiating the “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan” resolution.
Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.
The Philippines’ highest-ranking lawmaker said on Monday a UN resolution to probe the country’s bloody war on drugs should be ignored, and its chief backer Iceland be investigated instead for human rights abuses in allowing abortion.
“They have more unborn babies that they have aborted or killed. There are more killings in abortion than the drug pushers who are fighting the police,” Senate President Vicente Sotto told ANC news channel.
The Nordic nation lacks moral grounds to lecture the Philippines on human rights, Sotto said. “So we should disregard that resolution.”
His remarks are the latest in a series of comments from lawmakers urging the government to not cooperate after the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted Iceland’s resolution to investigate thousands of deaths under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.
Police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016. Critics and rights group said authorities summarily execute suspects, which the police deny.
“The criminals can fight back, the babies cannot. What human rights are they talking about?” Sotto said, adding that drug dealers that fight back and destroy families lose their human rights.
His comments about abortion echoed those made by incoming Senator Imee Marcos, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Rights groups, which hailed the UN vote as a step toward accountability, point out that the bloody anti-narcotics campaign is marked by systematic cover-ups, planted evidence and impunity.
The president’s spokesman on Monday warned countries not to meddle with the state’s affairs.
“All incidents in the war on drugs are tallied, recorded. All they have to do is ask us, not to pre-judge us,” presidential spokesman Spokesman Panelo told a regular news conference. “It behoves them to render respect to a sovereign state.”
Duterte on Friday mocked Iceland as an ice-eating nation without understanding of his country’s problems.