• Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019
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Thailand's junta chief says he will run for PM in March 24 elections

  • Published at 11:01 pm February 8th, 2019
Prayuth Chan-ocha
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives to attend a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, January 8, 2019 Reuters

Prayuth, the army chief who seized power from a democratic government in a 2014 coup and made himself prime minister

The head of Thailand's military junta, Prayuth Chan-ocha, said on Friday he will contest March 24 elections as a candidate for prime minister.

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, reports Reuters.

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.

Her involvement gives a royal sheen to Thaksin Shinawatra's political machine, which has won every election since 2001, reports AFP.

And it also potentially builds a bridge between Thaksin's "Red" shirted supporters and the "Yellow" shirts who are arch royalists. Deadly violence and disruption linked to the two groups has defined Thailand's turbulent last decade.

"The board agrees that the name of Princess Ubolratana, an educated and skilled person, is the most suitable choice," Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters.

The party falls under the tutelage of Thaksin, a billionaire self-exiled former premier, who stands at the heart of Thailand's bitter political schism - loathed by the army and Bangkok elite, yet adored by the rural poor.

The announcement thrusts him back to the centre stage of Thailand's political drama just as it appeared the military were set to succeed in sidelining him.

He was toppled in a 2006 coup, while his sister Yingluck was booted from power in a 2014 military takeover and forced into exile to avoid a jail term.

The princess's move deals a heavy blow to the aspirations of Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the junta head, who has spent nearly five years trying to recast the political system to limit the power of elected governments and prepare his own return as a civilian leader.

In a day of high drama, Prayut declared his candidacy for premier, running for the Phalang Pracharat army party, moments after the princess's announcement.

"I want to reassure that I do not intend to hang on to power. It is not easy for me to make my decision it is a crucial moment for the country," he said.