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

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.


Hong Kong leader visits mosque struck by blue water-cannon dye

Updated 1 min 37 sec ago

Hong Kong leader visits mosque struck by blue water-cannon dye

  • The entrance to the Kowloon Mosque was sprayed by a water cannon truck on Sunday, causing anger among both local Muslims and protester
  • The mosque is a center of Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong Muslim community

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader and the city’s police chief visited a mosque on Monday that was struck with blue dye from a water cannon during the latest bout of violent protests.
The entrance to the Kowloon Mosque, the international hub’s largest, was sprayed by a water cannon truck on Sunday, causing anger among both local Muslims and protesters.
Police use the dye — often mixed with an irritant — as a way to identify protesters but it has frequently left streets and buildings daubed in a garish blue.
Video footage shot Sunday showed the truck pulling up outside the building during confrontations with protesters, pausing and then spraying around half a dozen journalists and bystanders who were gathered on the street outside.
The group, who did not appear to be protesters, was struck twice, with much of the bright blue jet painting the mosque’s entrance and steps.
Police released a statement on Sunday saying the mosque was hit by mistake but did not apologize.
On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam and police chief Stephen Lo paid a brief visit to the mosque, surrounded by a phalanx of security guards.
They emerged some 20 minutes later without speaking to the media.
Mosque representatives told reporters that the two had apologized for the water cannon incident and that the apology had been accepted.
The representatives also thanked worshippers and Hong Kongers who flocked to clean the mosque soon after the incident.
The original Kowloon Mosque was built in the late nineteenth century to cater for Muslim soldiers from British-ruled India.
It was rebuilt in the early 1980s and remains a center of Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong Muslim community.
Lam’s office and the police did not respond to requests for comment on the visit.
A police source told AFP the commissioner did apologize and further details would be released later in the day.
Hong Kong was convulsed by another day of violence on Sunday as the city nears five months of seething pro-democracy protests.
Tens of thousands joined an unauthorized but peaceful afternoon rally which quickly descended into chaos as small groups of hardcore protesters threw petrol bombs and rocks at a police station, mainland China businesses and multiple subway station entrances.
Police responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes that lasted well into the night.