Thai king backs junta leader as premier

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Bangkok - Thai military leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha was endorsed as prime minister by Thailand's king on Monday, four days after he was elected by his own hand-picked parliament, paving the way for the formation of an interim government.

Prayuth was appointed prime minister on Thursday by 191 out of 197 members of the military-dominated national assembly. He was the sole candidate for the post.

Approval from King Bhumibol Adulyadej is a formality. The interim government will be set up in the coming weeks, although power will remain firmly in the junta's hands.

“His Majesty the King has endorsed General Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister to govern the country from this day onwards,” the Royal Gazette said in a statement published on its official website on Monday.

Prayuth is expected to take part in a royal endorsement ceremony at the army's Bangkok headquarters later on Monday.

He led a May 22 coup, which the military said was necessary to avoid further bloodshed after months of turbulence pitting protesters, including the urban elite and southern Thais, against supporters of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Prayuth, who is due to retire as army chief in September, moved quickly to silence dissent and deployed troops to quell protests in the weeks after the coup.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has tried to sell a positive story and has pointed to modest improvements in the economy and consumer confidence since the takeover.

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy avoided recession in the second quarter of the year but the tentative recovery is some way from matching the government spin.

Prayuth, 60, was a key figure in the 2006 coup that ousted Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin has lived in self-exile since 2008 to avoid serving a jail sentence for corruption charges he denies.

He has said he wants to free Thailand from a vicious cycle of political instability but critics say his rhetoric, including nostalgia-tinged references to an agrarian utopia and a “return to morality in Thailand”, is outmoded and threaten to drag Thailand back by decades. - Reuters



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