What to expect from team Prayut

What to expect from team Prayut

Armed forces could still prove useful in dealing with foes

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him. (Bangkok Post photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him. (Bangkok Post photo)

Gen Prayut was formally elected as the country's 29th prime minister by parliament. However, the military will still remain his tool to maintain a stable government and help achieve his vision for the country, says a military source close to the prime minister.

As soon as Gen Prayut and his cabinet ministers are sworn in, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and its mechanisms -- including his so-called Section 44 powers, which give broad authority to Gen Prayut as head of the NCPO -- will become a thing of the past.

To make up for this, Gen Prayut is expected to rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him. The prime minister is strongly tipped to take helm at the Defence Ministry, which will allow him to work closely with the military, especially the army headed by Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

According to the source, Gen Prayut will have no hard time as defence minister and he is highly unlikely to face any coups.

Gen Apirat, who sits on the NCPO, has maintained his allegiance and support for Gen Prayut and due to internal structural changes -- in which key units for coup-making are transferred -- any military intervention is almost ruled out.

While the regime relies on the peace-keeping corps to maintain law and order, the civilian government led by Gen Prayut will depend on the army's Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), which has the resources and the Internal Security Act to do the same job.

To some, the civilian Prayut government will be seen as a shadow of the NCPO due to several elements that will come into play.

Among them is the return of the three military brothers -- Gen Prayut himself, and Gen Prawit Wongsuwon and Gen Anupong Paojinda -- who are poised to return as a deputy prime ministers for security affairs and interior minister respectively.

Even though the new government has a razor-thin majority, some believe possible infighting within coalition partners will be short-lived.

The source said if that is the case, Gen Prayut will be able to keep his government going and complete its four-year term.

The source did not elaborate but believed that military tactics will be deployed to make the Prayut administration stay in power as long as possible and help him prepare for the next round of elections.

Personal connections will play a significant role in negotiations and bargaining with coalition parties and the opposition camp, according to the source. So-called ngu hao, or renegade politicians, are not a political myth and are likely to be used when needed.

Cabinet reshuffles, money and lawsuits are also on the table.

It is believed that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, who has vast connections in the military and in the political realm, will be still around and continue to work behind the scenes if he is not part of the cabinet.

Gen Prawit has repeatedly cited health problems and signalled that he might not sit in the cabinet. He later said it would be up to Gen Prayut whether to reinstate him or not.

At 73, Gen Prawit may retire to nurse his health, but he is likely to continue working as an adviser and wield his clout to support the Prayut administration.

Highly influential, Gen Prawit can broker talks among politicians in the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and its coalition partners, and he is known to be the force behind the setting up of the PPRP and poaching of politicians and formation of the new government.

According to the source, one of Gen Prayut's key missions is to push for the realisation of national reforms and the 20-year-strategic plan.

"Gen Prayut has decided to go down this road, so many believe he comes prepared. He is known to be planning ahead, so he is likely to tackle any challenges," said the source.

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