BANGKOK — Three months after overthrowing an elected government, Thailand’s junta leader is stepping out of his army uniform to take up the post of prime minister in a move critics say will prolong his rule and bolster the military’s grip on power.
Thailand’s legislature voted overwhelmingly Thursday to name Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to the new job. There was little doubt over the outcome since Prayuth was the only candidate and the assembly — hand-picked by the junta — is dominated by active and retired duty officers.
The 60-year-old leader is due to retire from the army next month and until then will hold both positions.
Thursday’s appointment appears aimed at keeping him at the helm as the military implements sweeping political reforms critics say are designed to purge the ousted ruling party’s influence and benefit an elite minority that has failed to win national elections for more than a decade.
Prayuth has effectively served as de facto prime minister since staging the May 22 coup. For several years before that, he held the position of army chief, a post many regard as one of the country’s most powerful. Thailand’s military has a history of intervening in politics and has seized power 12 times since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.