Thailand’s junta chief could stay in charge of the country as head of a provisional government until elections are held some time next year, a legal adviser has said, outlining details of an interim constitution.
A member of the ruling military council on Wednesday added that martial law, imposed two days before the army seized power on May 22, would remain in force for the foreseeable future.
The military, under army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, said it acted to restore order after months of political turmoil as protesters tried to topple the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck was forced to step down on May 7 after being found guilty of abuse of power by the Constitutional Court.
The remainder of her cabinet was ousted in the coup two weeks later.
The military tore up the old constitution and set about introducing an interim charter that will dictate how the country is run until the next general election, which the junta has indicated could be at the end of 2015.
Under the terms of the charter, Chan-ocha could become prime minister, a junta legal adviser said on Wednesday.
Asked at a news conference on the interim charter whether Prayuth would be prime minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, a legal adviser to the junta, said: “The constitution allows it, but whether he is appointed or not is down to the National Legislative Assembly.”
Critics of the army say it plans to make the permanent constitution less democratic by reducing the power of elected politicians and increasing the number of appointed legislators, with the goal of allowing the conservative,
royalist ruling elite to retain power.
The May coup was rooted in divisions that have wracked Thailand since 2006, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, was toppled by a military coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, remains highly popular among the poor in Thailand’s north and northeast, and parties controlled by him have won every national election since 2001.
His opponents, including the country’s traditional elites, who are tied to the military and the royal palace, bitterly opposed him and sought to remove all traces of Thaksin’s political machine from politics.