Thailand coup General Prayuth Chan-ocha named PM

Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has been named the new prime minister of the southeast Asian nation.

Gen Prayuth, 60, was nominated on Thursday in a legislature hand-picked by the junta and made up of mostly military and police figures.

The general was the head of the army when he led a dramatic coup in May.

It followed months of intense political deadlock between Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and opposition parties that resulted in protests and clashes.

Gen Prayuth was chosen after all 197 members of Thailand’s National Assembly cast their votes on Thursday morning.

The vote in Parliament was little more than a formality, lasting just 15 minutes, as Gen Prayuth was the only candidate.

The assembly’s choice is expected to be approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej later.

Although his role is meant to be an interim one as the military has said it will hold a general election in late 2015, our correspondent says Gen Prayuth now wields enormous power- he also still heads the military junta. He is expected to pick his new cabinet soon.

He has promised a root and branch reform of politics to prevent a return to the turmoil of recent years, offering a possible restoration of democratic rule next year.

However critics believe his real priority is to destroy the political party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which has won every election for the past 14 years, and to secure a delicate royal succession, goals that would require a much longer democratic timetable.

Concerns have mounted that the military is seeking to strengthen its hold on the country.

Besides hand-picking the national assembly, the junta issued an interim constitution in July that gives the military sweeping powers.

It is appointing a national reform council that would help to come up with a permanent constitution that would take effect by July 2015.

But Gen Prayuth and junta officials have argued that military rule has brought stability to Thailand following months of violent protests between the pro- and anti-Thaksin camps.

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