Thai lawmakers elect junta chief as new PM

BANGKOK: Thailand’s junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha was elected late on Wednesday as the kingdom’s first civilian prime minister since the 2014 coup he led, in a vote by
a parliament stacked with appointed allies of the conservative, arch-royalist army.
Prayut swept aside his sole challenger, the charismatic 40-year-old billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit who led the anti-military bloc, comfortably passing the 375-vote threshold to win a majority, with scores of votes still to be counted.
His victory was all but guaranteed by the support of the 250-member senate and the late swing of key secondary parties into a coalition after frantic talks.
The senate, which was appointed by the junta, includes scores of military officers and loyalists — many identifiable as they read out Prayut’s name by their short serviceman’s haircuts. His election completes a journey for the 65-year-old Prayut from army chief who toppled the last civilian government to prime minister, with claims to legitimacy after an unexpectedly strong showing from his army-linked party in a March general election.
Yet Thailand remains bitterly divided after 13 years defined by coups, violent street protests and short-lived civilian governments.
At their root is a rivalry between an arch-royalist conservative establishment and pro-democracy parties supported by many in the lower and middle class as well as young people wearied by the rule of generals. — AFP