Prayut Chan-o-cha

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This is a Thai name. Prayut is the given name; Chan-o-cha is the family name. According to Thai custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Prayut.
Prayut Chan-o-cha
ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา

MPCh MWM TChW RMK
Prayuth Jan-ocha 2010-06-17 Cropped.jpg
Prayut in 2010
29th Prime Minister of Thailand
Incumbent
Assumed office
22 May 2014
Acting: 22 May 2014 – 24 August 2014
Monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej
Preceded by Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan (Acting)
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Incumbent
Assumed office
22 May 2014
Preceded by Position established
Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army
In office
1 October 2010 – 30 September 2014
Preceded by Anupong Paochinda
Succeeded by Udomdej Sitabutr
Personal details
Born (1954-03-21) 21 March 1954 (age 61)
Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Naraporn Chan-o-cha[1]
Children Thanya
Nittha
Alma mater National Defence College
Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Signature
Military service
Allegiance  Thailand
Service/branch Royal Thai Army
Years of service 1972–2014
Rank Thai army O9.png General
Commands Commander-in-Chief

Prayut Chan-o-cha (previously spelt Prayuth Chan-ocha; Thai: ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา; IPA[prà.jút tɕān.ʔōː.tɕʰāː]; born 21 March 1954) is a retired Thai army officer[2] who is now (2015) the Prime Minister of Thailand and head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), a military junta that has the power to control the prime minister.

Prayut is a former Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, the post he held from October 2010 to October 2014.[3][4] After his appointment as army chief, Prayut was characterised as a strong royalist and an opponent of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.[5] Considered a hardliner within the military, he was one of the leading proponents of military crackdowns on the "Red Shirt" demonstrations of April 2009 and April–May 2010.[6][7] He later sought to moderate his profile, talking to relatives of protesters who were killed in the bloody conflict,[8] and co-operating with the government of Yingluck Shinawatra[9] who won parliamentary election in July 2011.

During the political crisis that began in November 2013 and involved protests against the caretaker government of Yingluck, Prayut claimed that the army was neutral,[10] and would not launch a coup. However, in May 2014, Prayut unexpectedly launched a military coup against the government and then assumed control of the country as NCPO leader.[11] He later issued an interim constitution granting himself sweeping powers and giving himself amnesty for staging the coup.[12] In August 2014, a military-dominated national legislature, whose members were handpicked by Prayut, elected him as the new prime minister.[13][14]

After seizing power, Prayut launched crackdowns on dissent.[15] He required all students in Thai schools to recite the "twelve values"[16] as formulated by him.[17][18] He has also banned public discussion about democracy and any criticism of his government.[19]

Military education[edit]

Prayut studied at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School (AFAPS) Class 12, Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Class 63, the National Defence College of Thailand (NDC) 5020, and attended Infantry Officer Basic Course Class 51 and Infantry Officer Advanced Course Class 38. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.[20]

Like his direct predecessor Anupong Paochinda and former defence minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Prayut is a member of the army's "eastern tigers" clique. Most of them, like Prayut, began their military careers in the 2nd Infantry Division (headquartered in eastern Thailand), particularly in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen's Guards).[21][22][23][24]

Military career[edit]

Prayut (left) meets US General Martin Dempsey (right) during his visit to Bangkok (2012)

After graduating from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, Prayut served in the 21st Infantry Regiment, which is granted Royal Guards status as the Queen's Guards (Thai: ทหารเสือราชินี lit. Queen's Musketeer). In 2002, he served as a deputy commanding general in the 2nd Infantry Division, becoming its commanding general one year later. In 2005, he became a deputy commanding general of the 1st Army, which includes the 2nd Infantry Division, and again became its commanding general within a year.

Prayut was the chief of staff of the Royal Thai Army from 2008 to 2009, and in 2009 he was appointed honorary adjutant to the king. In 2010, he succeeded Anupong Paochinda as commander in chief.[20][25]

Non-military activities[edit]

After the 2006 Thai coup d'état, Prayut was appointed to the National Legislative Assembly. In this capacity, he joined the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Prayut sits on the executive boards of a number of companies including the state electricity utility company, MEA. From 2007 to 2010 he was independent director at Thai Oil Public Co, Ltd. Since October 7, 2010 he has been a director of Thai Military Bank[20] and chairman of the Army United Football Club.

In May 2013, Prayut sold nine plots of land in a Bangkok suburb to a company called 69 Property for THB600 million. Reporters subsequently asked him about the land sale, and the prime minister's position was that the media had no business questioning him on the matter. "The land has belonged to me since I was a kid, it belonged to my father. So what's the problem?" Gen Prayut said. "Please stop criticising me already."[26]

In his mandatory 2014 asset disclosure to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the prime minister listed THB128.6 million (US$3.9 million) in assets and THB654,745 baht (US$20,000) in liabilities. His assets include a Mercedes Benz S600L car, a BMW 740Li Series sedan, luxury watches, rings, and several pistols. He also reported the transfer of THB466.5 million (US$14.3 million) to other family members. As army chief, prior to his retirement at the end of September, the general received a THB1.4 million (US$43,000) annual salary.[27][26]

2014 coup d'état and premiership[edit]

Following the 2013–14 Thai political crisis, Prayut intervened to attempt to bring the rival parties to an agreement. When that failed, he staged a coup against the caretaker government of Yingluck Shinawatra on 22 May 2014. Yingluck herself had been removed from office earlier by the Constitutional Court, and Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan was acting in her place. After the coup, Prayut repealed the 2007 constitution and established the NCPO to govern the nation, with himself as its head.[28] Prayut quickly cracked down on dissent. He took control of the media, imposed Internet censorship, declared a curfew nationwide, banned gatherings of five or more persons, and arrested both politicians and anti-coup activists. Some of these were charged with sedition and tried in military courts.[15][29][30]

On 22 July 2014, Prayut issued an interim constitution granting himself amnesty for leading the coup and investing himself with vast (if temporary) powers.[31] On 31 July 2014, a national legislature was established according to the constitution. However, the legislators, mostly senior military and police officers, were handpicked by Prayut and included Prayut's younger brother.[32][33] The legislature later unanimously voted Prayut to be the new prime minister. The formal appointment was made on 24 August 2014.[34][35] As a result, Prayut held three positions at the same time: army chief, NCPO leader, and prime minister,[36] before retiring from the army chief post in October 2014.

Although Prayut claimed his coup was needed for combating corruption, some members of his own cabinet and members of the appointed national legislature, including his brother Preecha Chan-o-cha and Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister M.L. Panadda Diskul, have themselves been beset by various corruption scandals.[37] Prayut then prohibited any criticism of his government.[19] In February 2015 he explained, "If people want to do opinion polls, they are free to do so. But if the polls oppose the NCPO, that is not allowed."[38]

His appearance in Milan at the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on 16 October 2014 drew protests.[39]

"Returning happiness to the people" speeches[edit]

On 30 May 2014, Prayut gave his first of a series of Friday night speeches on national television.[40] Preempting normal broadcasting, including Thai soap operas (a national obsession), Prayut sometimes spoke for more than an hour, explaining governmental policies, warning the media to cease spreading dissenting views, and complaining that people weren't minding him. "Sometimes I feel a bit slighted. I am not sure whether you have heard me or listened to the information that we have sent out", he once said.[41] In March 2015, Prayut announced that his Friday night addresses would be shortened to 20 or 30 minutes and would include his ministers speaking for themselves. "I'm tired of speaking for hours," he said. "So from now on, I will reduce the duration of my 'Returning Happiness to People' speech ever [sic] Friday and will have my ministers who oversee each topic to speak in the programme.".[42]

Article 44[edit]

On 31 March 2015, Prayut announced that he had taken the required step of asking the king's permission to revoke martial law, which had been in place since the coup of May 2014, to be replaced with Article 44 of the interim constitution. Article 44 authorizes the junta chairman to issue "any order to disrupt or suppress" any act that "undermines public peace and order or national security, the Monarchy, national economics or the administration of State affairs, whether that act emerges inside or outside the Kingdom." The Bangkok Post commented, "The section has no constraint, no oversight, no checks or balances, and no retribution. It says forthrightly that anything done by the NCPO chief is 'legal, constitutional and conclusive'".[43] "Article 44 essentially means Prayut is the law...It needs to be added that the junta leader can also insist on staying on in absolute power indefinitely".[44] Prayut told reporters that he would not use Article 44 to violate the civil rights of anyone who is innocent. "If you didn't do anything wrong, why are [you] worried?" he snapped in response to a question. According to Article 44, the prime minister is not required to inform the government before issuing an order, but must notify the interim parliament "without delay".[45]

Civil liberties[edit]

In February 2015, Prayut declared he had the power to close media outlets.[46] In March, when asked how the government would deal with journalists who did not adhere to the government's line, he took an even harsher position, "'We'll probably just execute them', said Prayut, without a trace of a smile,...You don't have to support the government, but you should report the truth' the former army chief said, telling reporters to write in a way that bolsters national reconciliation in the kingdom".[47] His remarks were promptly condemned by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).[48]

Economic policies[edit]

The prime minister has claimed that Thailand's economic slowdown is not attributable to his government, but is due to the world economic situation. He stated his goal of moving Thailand from a middle income economy to a high income economy by aiding farmers and by encouraging Thai industry to produce quality products at low prices. In a speech before the Federation of Thai Industries, the Prayut declared that providing more aid to farmers, increasing the sale of Thai rubber to China, and completing a potash mining project to cut farmers' cost of fertilizer would help achieve this goal. As would encouraging manufacturers to cut packaging costs, particularly "beautiful packaging".[49]

Human trafficking[edit]

In his nationwide address of 27 March 2015, the prime minister focused on the Thai fishing industry and its reliance on forced labor. Gen Prayut said that his government had elevated the fight against human trafficking to the top of the national agenda, the same as drug suppression, saying it has long tarnished the country's image. He blamed worsening human trafficking, particularly in the fishing industry, on inaction or ignorance by the previous government, toppled in his May 22 military coup. Prayut vowed to put fishing operators out of business if they are found to violate laws and abuse workers in ways that jeopardise Thai exports worth hundreds of billions of baht a year. Thailand is facing international bans of its fisheries products. These bans could be extended other Thai exports like rice or rubber. "The people who do wrong in this area must repent. They have done this for a long time, for many years, and past administrations were never able to cope." he said.[50]

Prime ministerial viewpoints[edit]

  • In the aftermath of the slaying of two British tourists on Ko Tao, Prime Minister Prayut observed that, "There are always problems with tourist safety,...They think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they wear bikinis and walk everywhere....Can they be safe in bikinis...unless they are not beautiful?"[51]
  • The prime minister has asked the media not to report on human trafficking without considering how the news will impact the country's seafood industry and its reputation abroad. "Please don't escalate this news," Prayut told reporters in advance of a Channel 3 report about Thai nationals forced into slaving on Thai fishing boats in Indonesian waters. "The media should consider the impact the news will have on the country," he said. "It may cause problems, and affect national security ... If this news gets widely published, [it could raise] problems of human trafficking and IUU [Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing]." He warned that if any news reports cause Thailand's seafood industry to lose customers, "the people who published the news will have to be held responsible." The government will summon the Channel 3 journalist, Thapanee Ietsrichai, who has been reporting on the plight of Thai men laboring on the ships. "Let me tell you now, Thapanee will have to come see officials," said Prayut.[52]
  • In a speech marking Thailand's National Media Day on 5 March 2015, Prime Minister Prayut urged journalists to go beyond merely "reporting the facts". "This morning, someone said the media needs to be impartial. No. I don't think they should say that. It isn't good,...What they should say is, first, media should report news that is factual. Second, they should support the government's efforts to move the country forward. And third, they should help reduce conflicts in society, and create understanding about the government's policies that give clear results. Can you not do these three or four things together, dears?" He went on to say, "If this person says, this side good, that side not good, if media keeps presenting news like that, when will our country have peace?" The general then wished the media happiness and told the journalists to "be good reporters, be quality reporters, and be lovely reporters."[53]
  • In his weekly Friday night "Returning Happiness to the People" televised broadcast of 24 April 2015, Prime Minister Gen Prayut conceded that Section 44 powers will not be enough to resolve illegal fishing issues that have prompted an EU warning and possible ban on Thai exports within the six month period stipulated by the EU. He noted that it was a long-standing problem and that, "I cannot use Article 44 to solve every problem, I cannot use it to solve expensive lemons, to solve the economy or to solve the ICAO aviation safety concern problem. Section 44 is just for allowing military officers to do what they could not do in the past." During the same program, the prime minister reported progress on tackling forest encroachment, saying the government had reclaimed more than 35 million rai (56,000 km2) of illegally-occupied public forests.[56]

Personal life[edit]

Prayut is married to Naraporn Chan-o-cha, a former associate professor at Chulalongkorn University's Language Institute.[57] She has served as president of the Army Wives' Association since Prayut's selection as army chief in 2010, and is involved with distance learning organisations, for whom she teaches English on a long-distance learning television channel. They have twin daughters, Thanya and Nittha, twenty-somethings who enjoyed success as a "punk-lite rock duo" several years ago.[38][58] His family has generally kept a low profile, particularly after a Red Shirt leader called for his daughters' kidnapping if Prayut were to stage a coup.

In September 2014, Time magazine reported that he had become "increasingly eccentric" and "highly superstitious" since taking power.[59] Gen Prayut has stated publicly that he consults fortune tellers. He said there was no harm in seeking their advice. When suffering from fever and aches early in his premiership, he blamed his ills on spells cast by his political enemies and combated the malady with holy water.[60]

According to the Bangkok Post, Prayut has a collection of lucky rings which he varies daily in accordance with that day's activities. The rings are named Wan-Phra, Wan-Namoh, Wan-Sondej, and Wan-Noppakao. He also wears an elephant hair bracelet to ward off bad luck.[61] He has revived the wearing of the traditionally-inspired phraratchathan, first popularised by Prem Tinsulanond in the 1980s, and has instructed cabinet members to dress in the phra rajathan at meetings, rather than in Western suits.[61]

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External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Anupong Paochinda
Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army
2010–2014
Succeeded by
Udomdej Sitabutr
Political offices
Preceded by
Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan
Acting
Prime Minister of Thailand
2014–present
Incumbent