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Since the May 22 coup d'état that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra's civilian government, General Prayuth Chan-ocha's military has cracked down on dissent by imposing martial law, detaining protesters, handpicking members of the legislature, and suspending all forms of popular elections. (Photo: Reuters)

Army General Who Led Coup D'état in Thailand Named Prime Minister

Overthrow of country's elected government in May has been followed by crackdown on dissent and increased abuses against those opposed to military rule

Deirdre Fulton

Thailand's junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, an army general who led the overthrow of the southeast Asian nation's elected government in May, has been named the new prime minister.

The BBC described the vote in a Parliament comprised mostly of military and police figures as "little more than a formality...the kind of rushed acclamation favored by dictatorships and communist parties of old."

Since the May 22 coup that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra's civilian government, Prayuth's military has cracked down on dissent by imposing martial law, detaining protesters, handpicking members of the legislature, and suspending all forms of popular elections.

The New York Times reports:

Thailand’s military says it will eventually restore democracy. But the junta has not provided a firm timetable for elections, and an interim constitution introduced by the military says that democracy, when it is restored, will be “suitable for a Thai context,” a vague qualification that has yet to be defined.

Surachart Bamrungsuk, a professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and an expert on the Thai military, describes the current system as a “soft dictatorship” and says that the top generals are trying to cement their place in the country’s future.

“What they want is a kind of guided democracy where the military has a supervisory role,” Professor Surachart said.

According to Time:

Since seizing power, the junta — officially known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — has promulgated an interim constitution that was labeled “a charter for dictatorship” by Human Rights Watch. It has also led a vicious crackdown on political opponents, journalists and academics critical of the putsch.

“Fundamental rights and freedoms, essential for the restoration of democracy, are still severely suppressed by the military authorities,” says Sunai Phasuk, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Thailand. “Political activity, public assembly and expression of different opinions are not tolerated. Opposition to the coup and the NCPO is criminalized and subject to prosecution.”

In response to Prayuth's election, Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adam said: “As both prime minister and junta leader, Gen. Prayuth can wield broad power without accountability. This marks a dark day for human rights and the future of democracy in Thailand.”

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