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The new acting leader of Thailand is another member of the royalist military

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - Thailand's new acting leader, Prawit Wongsuwan, isn't much different from the suspended Prime Min...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - Thailand's new acting leader, Prawit Wongsuwan, isn't much different from the suspended Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, according to people who want to stop what they call the military's control of politics.

For the ruling coalition, which is led by the pro-military Palang Pracharat party, Prawit's caretaker role means stability until the Constitutional Court decides whether Prayuth's time as a military leader from 2014 to 2019 counts toward an eight-year term limit, as the opposition claims.

Prawit, who is 77 years old and has been a vice prime minister since 2019, has been Prayuth's friend for a long time. He was part of the military junta that ran Thailand for almost five years after Prayuth's 2014 coup toppled the elected government.

Prawit was once the head of the army, just like Prayuth, and he is known for being fiercely loyal to the monarchy. Both men served in the elite Queen's Guard unit, which is closely connected to the palace.

But, unlike Prayuth, he has usually done most of his work behind the scenes.

Prawit has been seen as a power broker for a long time, both within the Palang Pracharat party, which he helped start, and among the wealthy elite who support Thailand's royal family and military.

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the political science department at Ubon Ratchathani University, told Reuters that Prawit's power comes from his connections with business leaders.

Titipol said that if Prawit becomes acting prime minister, he will help stabilise the political situation and strengthen the ruling coalition and business interests before the election.


Even though he may be best at getting things done behind the scenes, Prawit has also been watched by the public.

In 2018, a picture of him wearing a diamond ring and an expensive watch that didn't show up on his public asset declaration led to an investigation into corruption and harsh criticism from the public.

Later, activists found photos of the former general wearing at least 25 other expensive watches that he had not declared. Prawit said that he had borrowed the watches.

Later, the National Anti-Corruption Commission decided that there wasn't enough proof to press charges for falsely declaring assets.

Because of this controversy and his close ties to Prayuth's junta, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst and professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said that Prawit might face a lot of the same opposition as the real person he is playing.

Thitinan said, "Prawit will be in trouble from the start." "He may be a fixer and broker for the coalition and Palang Pracharat, but the public doesn't like him very much."


Prawit and Prayuth moved up the ranks together, but for most of their time in the army, Prawit was in charge.

When they were both in the Queen's Guard, Prawit was Prayuth's boss. Both of them also served in the Burapha Payak, also called the Eastern Tigers, which was a group of soldiers with power in eastern Thailand.

From 2004 to 2005, Prawit was the head of the armed forces. After he retired, from 2008 to 2011, he was the defence minister in a civilian government.

But in the past year, there have been signs of tension between Prayuth and Prawit over the direction of the ruling party. This is because the party kicked out 21 lawmakers, led by a Prawit supporter and former deputy agriculture minister named Thammanat Prompao.

But observers don't think the change from Prayuth to Prawit will have a big effect on the way the royalist military elite run the country's government.

Analyst Titipol said, "This is a typical political fight between groups." "But they'll save each other in the end and stay together."

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