Thai King to endorse coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha listens to questions from the media during a news conference at the Army Club after the army declared martial law nationwide to restore order, in Bangkok May
Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha listens to questions from the media during a news conference at the Army Club after the army declared martial law nationwide to restore order, in Bangkok, May.
Credit: Reuters

Thai coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha will receive the endorsement of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Monday as head of a ruling military council and the general will then give his first address to the nation since seizing power last week.

The royal command ceremony, a significant formality in a country where the monarchy is the most important institution, will begin at 10:49 a.m. (0349 GMT), the army said. It gave no reason for that time but it is likely it is deemed auspicious.

Prayuth’s address is likely to be viewed with conflicting attitudes in a country polarized by nearly a decade of rivalry between the royalist establishment, of which Prayuth is a member, and a populist politician who broke the political mould.

Prayuth will outline steps he intends to take, including the proclamation of an interim constitution and the setting up of a legislative council, the military said. It did not elaborate.

The military said it seized power last Thursday to end six months of sometimes violent protests against the populist government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

But it has taken over with a heavy hand, detaining perhaps scores of people, most allied with Yingluck’s government, throwing out the constitution, dissolving the Senate and censoring media. Anyone who insults the monarchy or violates the military’s orders will be tried in a military court.

Despite warnings, small crowds of people voicing opposition to the May 22 coup have been gathering in Bangkok as well as in the north and northeast, strongholds of the ousted government.

About 1,000 people thronged around Victory Monument, a central Bangkok hub, on Sunday, occasionally confronting lines of soldiers with riot shields, but there have been no clashes.

In what will be seen as a hopeful sign, the military has relaxed restrictions on Yingluck, allowing her to go home although she is under military supervision.

“She is free to come and go as she pleases but will have to inform us as a sign of mutual respect and we will have soldiers guarding her home,” a senior military official who declined to be identified said on Sunday.

But the easing on Yingluck will do little to dispel concern among her supporters that the military is intent on a crackdown for reasons beyond restoring order and ending antagonism between protesters backed by the establishment and the real power behind her government, her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.



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