Thailand now has an interim Prime Minister. Surayud Chulanont, a retired army general, was appointed yesterday.
Thailand prime minister sworn in
The IHT‘s Seth Mydans and Tom Fuller:
Thailand’s junta said Friday that it would not interfere with the workings of the interim government it has promised to appoint. But it said it reserved the right to fire the government in exceptional circumstances.
Peter Kneisel, writing in the Boston Globe, provides some history on coups in Thailand:
Never leave home in autumn. In Thailand, it is a dangerous time for an embattled leader to travel outside the kingdom and a surprising oversight by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that led to his overthrow. He had used his fortune to consolidate power, but neglected to firm up his popularity as he fiddled with the military promotion lists. The lists are leaked in September and published in October. Generals get restless in October, particularly if their careers are at risk.
The naming of retired Gen Surayud Chulanont as interim Prime Minister will cement the impression that the coup was a royal affair
Thai taxi rams into tank in apparent coup protest
The persistent myth of the ‘good’ coup
COMMENT: No matter how Thailand/coup leaders/Gen Surayud tries to paint this the military are yet to withdraw from politics – the military’s position is further entrenched with the new Constitution also approved today. I also don’t imagine he will impress most businessman with his first statement in his office:
“We will concentrate on the self-sufficiency economy that His Majesty the King advocates,” he told a news conference. “We won’t concentrate so much on the
GDP numbers. We would rather look into the indicators of people’s happiness and prosperity.”
Nevertheless, Gen Surayud was not chosen to pacify businessman or the international community, but for the domestic audience. He is no technocrat with economic and legal experience, but his distinct advantage is his good reputation in Thailand. This will give him a longer honeymoon period than almost any other military appointed civilian PM in Thailand would have, but he has a tough road ahead of him and the best he can do is come out the situation with his reputation intact. The first thing he will have to learn in his short political career is his popularity will partly depend on economic performance, that is simply politics whether he is an elected PM or not.