Bangkok: Three months after overthrowing Thailand's last elected government, this Southeast Asian nation's junta leader is stepping out of his army uniform for good to take up the post of prime minister in a move critics say will only extend his time at the helm and consolidate the military's grip on power.
Thailand's junta-appointed legislature voted unanimously today to name Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to the new job during a session in Bangkok.
Thailand's army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha is nominated as prime minister of the country. Photo: AFP
There was little doubt over the outcome since Prayuth was the only candidate. The 60-year-old leader is due to retire from the army next month but until then he can hold both positions.
Today's appointment appears aimed in part at keeping him at the helm as the military implements sweeping political reforms that critics say are designed to purge the influence of the ousted ruling party and favour an elite minority that has failed to win national elections for more than a decade.
Prayuth has effectively served as de facto premier since staging the May 22 coup. For several years before that, he held the position of army chief a post that many regard as one of the most powerful and influential in a country where the military has seized power 12 times since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
"He could have refused the job, but what would be the point?" said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai professor of Southeast Asian studies at Japan's Kyoto University whose passport was revoked after criticising the coup and refusing to respond to a junta summons ordering home.