Thai junta chief proclaimed second-time prime minister

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has served as prime minister since he led a military coup that toppled an elected government in 2014. (EPA)
Updated 12 June 2019

Thai junta chief proclaimed second-time prime minister

  • Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has served as prime minister since he led a military coup that toppled an elected government in 2014

BANGKOK: Thailand’s king formally endorsed former army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha as an elected prime minister on Tuesday, five years after he seized power in a military coup, though the makeup of his coalition government’s cabinet is unclear.

Prayuth’s unwieldy coalition will face fierce opposition from the Democratic Front of seven parties that says the military junta’s electoral rules ensured a victory for pro-army forces and whose members have been subjected to what they denounce as legal harassment.

Thailand held a bitterly fought general election in March, and the new parliament last week voted for Prayuth as prime minister, thanks to the votes of the upper house, the Senate, which was entirely appointed by the military junta Prayuth had led since 2104.

In the 500-member elected lower House of Representatives, his 19-party coalition holds only a slim majority and media has been rife with reports of wrangling over cabinet positions.

Prayuth earlier on Tuesday expressed optimism.

“The policy ideas proposed by parties are all beneficial to the people. So, the government that comes from the election and through the joining of members of parliament must be a government of all Thais,” he said

“I hope things will be sorted out as soon as possible.”

During the swearing-in, Prayuth bowed to a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The monarch, who was formally crowned in ornate rites last month, did not attend the ceremony.

“I will promote a peaceful environment for a unified society based on love, unity and compassion ... and I will safeguard the dignity of the institutions of state, religion and the monarchy, which are deeply cherished by the people of Thailand,” Prayuth said.

The junta leader had campaigned on a promise of bringing an end to confrontation between opponents and supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose loyalists lead the Pheu Thai Party that heads the Democratic Front.

Prayuth’s party members have in some cases accused rivals of insufficient loyalty to the monarchy, and the leader of the opposition Future Forward Party — also part of the Democratic Front — faces police charges of sedition and cybercrime.


Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

Updated 16 September 2019

Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

  • Invitation extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited US President Donald Trump to Pyongyang in his latest letter to the American head of state,  South Korea’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“I heard detailed explanations from US officials that there was such a letter a while ago,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told a  parliamentary session. “But I’m not in a position to confirm what’s in the letter or when it was delivered.”

The foreign minister’s remarks followed reports by a local newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which said that Kim’s invitation was extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15.

If true, the invitation was made as diplomats of the two governments were in a tug-of-war over the resumption of working-level talks for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

During a surprise meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, Trump and Kim pledged that working-level nuclear disarmament talks would resume within a month, but no such talks have been held,  with both sides indulging in a blame game instead.

“We are very curious about the background of the American top  diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” North Korea’s first vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Aug. 30 in a statement carried by the North’s official Central News Agency (KCNA). He was referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments terming Pyongyang’s rocket launches as “rogue.”

However, the tone has changed significantly with the communist state recently offering to return to dialogue with Washington “at a time and place agreed late in September.”

“I want to believe that the US side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Choe said on Aug. 30.

On Monday, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level denuclearization talks will likely take place “in a few weeks” but demanded security guarantees and sanctions’ relief as prerequisites.

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our  development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said. 

HIGHLIGHT

It’s not clear whether the US president has responded to the invitation, thought he has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was upbeat about the early resumption of nuclear talks.

“North Korea-US working-level dialogue will resume soon,” he said, citing an “unchanged commitment” to trust and peace by the leaders of both Koreas and the US. 

The working-level meeting will serve as a “force to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.

Moon is scheduled to meet Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.

“It will be an opportunity to share opinions and gather wisdom with Trump on the direction of further development of South Korea-US  relations,” he said.

The White House offered no immediate comment.

It’s not clear whether Trump responded to Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, but the US commander-in-chief has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator, who oversaw the test-firings of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple launch rockets more than half a dozen times since late July.

While none of the projectiles are a direct threat to the US continent they still pose threats to US and its allied forces in South Korea and Japan.

“Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think,” Trump told reporters on August 24 before flying off to meet with world leaders at the G7 in France. “And we’re going to see what’s going on. We’re going to see what’s happening. He likes testing missiles.”

Experts say the apparent firing of US National Security Adviser John Bolton has also boosted chances of fresh negotiations with the North, which had long criticized him for his hawkish approach toward the regime.

“The displacement of a ‘bad guy’ could be construed as a negotiating tactic to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate of nuclear talks. It’s a show of a will to engage the counterpart in a friendlier manner from the perspective of negotiation science,” Park Sang-ki, an adjunct professor at the department of business management at Sejong University in Seoul, told Arab News.