Thailand’s new parliament elects junta leader Prayuth as prime minister
BANGKOK, NNA – Thailand’s lawmakers on Wednesday elected junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister after long debate, following the March 24 general election in which Prayuth’s pro-military party failed to win a majority in the lower house.
Uncertainty about the new government made companies and households cautious about spending in the first few months of this year.
―― General Prayuth has been running the country as prime minister since May 2014, when he took power in a military coup. Wednesday’s vote was meant to restore civilian rule in Thailand.
―― Prayuth won 500 votes in parliament, while his main contender Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the head of the progressive Future Forward party, received 244 votes. The parliament consists of a 500-seat lower house and 250 seats in an upper chamber that is appointed by the military.
―― The pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party, backed by 18 other parties, voted for Prayuth.
―― Political instability in Thailand has persisted due to the battle between supporters of the military and those of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
―― Under Prayuth's rule, Thailand’s economic growth improved from around 1 percent in 2014 to a range of 3 percent to 4 percent between 2015 and 2018.
―― But in the January-March quarter of 2019, GDP growth decelerated to 2.8 percent on year, the slowest pace in more than four years, with exports hit by the global slowdown caused by the U.S.-China trade dispute and cautious business investment due to domestic political uncertainty.
―― Whether Thailand can restore higher growth remains to be seen. Foreign investors have been cautious about pouring capital into infrastructure amid the political uncertainty.
―― Also, labor-intensive industries are shifting production from Thailand to other Southeast Asian countries in search of lower labor costs. The Palang Pracharat Party has pledged to raise minimum wages in Thailand.