The leader of Thailand’s military junta has revoked dozens of special executive orders and vowed to stop issuing more as he prepares to lead an elected civilian government.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has kept a tight grip on power since leading a coup in 2014 and gave himself special legislative powers that allow him to issue orders that have the force of law.
Prayuth signed an order Tuesday revoking 66 of the more than 500 executive orders he has issued. Critics say it was an attempt to make it appear that the military is relinquishing power and transitioning to an elected government, although the new government will still be led by Prayuth and will include many junta members.
“The reason Prayuth revoked these orders is to help with image during the transition to the next government and to reduce pressure on him,” said Yingcheep Atchanont, program manager of the legal monitoring group iLaw.
Yingcheep said the junta has deliberately kept in place orders that enable the military to influence politics, such as one that allows soldiers to search and arrest people they suspect of threatening national security for up to seven days without charges.
The junta has regularly detained critics at military camps as a method of intimidation.
Another order Prayuth did not revoke allows a committee to review and direct the removal of online content without a court order.
The junta also enacted election laws that gave Prayuth a significant advantage in elections in March that resulted in his nomination to continue as prime minister and lead the next government.
On June 6, Thailand’s Parliament elected Prayuth to become prime minister by a vote of 500 to 244 for his opponent, anti-military candidate Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Prayuth’s election was virtually assured because the prime minister is chosen in a joint vote of the 500-seat House of Representatives and the 250-seat Senate, whose members were appointed by the junta Prayuth leads. Every member of the Senate voted for Prayuth except for the Senate speaker, who abstained.
Prayuth said Tuesday he would no longer use his special legislative power, known as Article 44, which will cease together with the junta once a new Cabinet is inaugurated in the coming weeks. Most Cabinet members, according to lists reported by Thai news outlets, will be members of the previous military government.
“Even though we still have some time before the new Cabinet is sworn in, it’s not appropriate to be using it anymore,” Prayuth said of his special legal authority.
Analysts have said the next government is likely to be short-lived because the coalition that supports Prayuth includes many political parties, each with its own agenda, and they will face strong opposition in the House, where they have only a slight majority. AP