01/10/2023, 15.16
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Prime Minister Prayut seeking a new mandate with a new party

by Steve Suwannarat

The general turned prime minister had to change party in order to run in the next election in May. In announcing his candidacy, he said his goal was to "protect" Thailand out of a sense of “duty". The opposition has challenged him as well as the results of the previous election.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Outgoing Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha yesterday announced that he will seek another mandate. Wearing civilian clothes, the former general said that he was running out of a sense of duty in order to complete “unfinished business”.

To this end, he is switching parties, moving from Palang Pracharath (which he had helped create in March 2018 to give legitimacy to military rule) to the newly created Ruam Thai Sang Chart (United Thai Nation Party).

Prayut was joined by several prominent leaders of Palang Pracharat, as well as from the Democratic Party and others.

In his speech, the 68-year-old Prayut once again said that he was not seeking power or benefits for himself, but out of a sense of “duty to protect this sacred land and maintain the three pillars of nation, (Buddhist) religion, the monarchy”.

For this reason, a new mandate would enable him to complete his mission, which he intended to do no matter how challenging or how much stress it might cause him.

“All I have done is for the sustainable future of the country. I will leave no one behind until I hand over the country to the next generation,” he said.

Since he came to power eight years ago, Prayut has survived several votes of no confidence in parliament as well as street protests.

In fact, the opposition has refused to recognise his legitimacy and considers him incapable of leading the country; instead, he is viewed as the guardian of an establishment that protects the interests of the monarchy, the armed forces and the oligarchy.

In April and May 2010, Prayut led the crackdown against the Red Shirts movement, and came to power in a coup d'état on 22 May 2014 at the helm of a military junta.

He was picked to be prime minister by the National Assembly without a popular mandate. In 2019, elections were held, which were widely seen by his rivals as unfairly skewed in his favour.

Any hope that he might be forced to leave office was dashed on 30 September when the Constitutional Court ruled that his first three years in power as head of the military junta, should not be counted towards the eight years allowed by the constitution (approved under military rule in 2016).

If Prayut is re-elected on 7 May, he can at most remain in office for half a term.

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