Thailand PM Prayuth says he will run in Mar 24 elections

Thailand PM Prayuth says he will run in Mar 24 elections

FILE PHOTO: Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives to attend a weekly cabinet mee
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives to attend a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan 8, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha/Files)

BANGKOK: Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday (Feb 8) he will contest in the upcoming Mar 24 elections.

Prayuth, the army chief who seized power from a democratic government in a 2014 coup and made himself prime minister, said in a statement he would run as a candidate for the pro-military Palang Pracharat party.

"I agree to accept the invitation by Phalang Pracharat to nominate my name to parliament to be appointed as PM," said the 64-year-old, referring to a party aligned with the army.

One of his main opponents will be the sister of Thailand's king, who was nominated on Friday by a party loyal to ousted populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya is the sole prime ministerial candidate from the Thai Raksa Chart Party, whose members include former members of Thaksin’s key political group, Pheu Thai.

People stand between statues depicting Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (L)
People stand between statues depicting Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (L) and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at an exhibition in Bangkok on Nov 9, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

READ: Commentary: General Prayut’s dream of remaining PM dampens Thailand’s hopes of starting afresh


When Prayuth became prime minister, he promised to bring peace to Thailand and also promised to heal more than a decade of political divisions through political and economic reforms and by overhauling what he said was Thailand's corruption-ridden political system.

The results produced varying degrees of success, according to critics. 

Prayuth was known for his tough stance against critics of his military government. 

Hundreds of activists, politicians and journalists were called in for so-called 'attitude adjustment' sessions following the 2014 coup and some were kept at army facilities for days before being released. 

READ: Thai activists plan more protests ahead of coup anniversary in May

READ: Thai activist faces up to 15 years in jail for posting BBC article

In 2016, police detained and charged eight people with sedition ahead of a referendum on a military-backed draft constitution.

Article 44 of the interim constitution was eventually enacted by Prayuth, giving the military sweeping powers. His critics remember an authoritative figure who moved to consolidate military power during his premiership. 

International rights groups frequently criticised the Prayuth government for the limits it imposed on freedom of speech and expression.

A staunch royalist, Prayuth's government also cracked down on perceived critics of the monarchy. 

Activists gather to demand quick elections to end military rule in Bangkok
A placard mocking Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as Pinocchio is seen as activists hold up candles while gathering to demand quick elections to end military rule at a university in Bangkok, Thailand, January 19, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

He oversaw a royal transition following the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died in October 2016 at the age of 88 after reigning over Thailand for seven decades. King Bhumibol was succeeded by his son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

An outspoken leader, Prayuth was also known for his weekly, televised speeches which were often nationalistic in tone and tinged with nostalgia for a Thailand of bygone years. 

In a widely publicised incident in 2018, the prime minister asked reporters to refer their questions to a cardboard cutout of himself - a move criticised by the Human Rights Watch for showing "contempt of media criticism".

Born on Mar 21, 1954, Prayuth is married to Naraporn Chan-ocha, a former associate professor at Chulalongkorn University. 

Together they have twin daughters Thanya Chan-ocha and Nittha Chan-ocha.

Prayuth quickly rose through the ranks in Thailand's army and became commander of the First Army Region, which oversees Bangkok and the central plains, in 2006 and became commander-in-chief of the army in 2010.

His military career began in the 21st Infantry Regiment, or known as the Queen's Guard, situated in eastern Thailand, where he then became part of the Thai army's royalist "eastern tigers" faction.

Source: Agencies/ad(rw)