Thailand: Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the general, who did not want to let go of the power

Thaïlande: Prayut Chan-O-Cha, le général qui ne voulait pas lâcher le pouvoir

He had promised to restore democracy, but has continued to tighten its grip on the country. General to grasp at the head of the Thailand since the military coup of 2014, Prayut Chan-O-Cha is a dream now Prime minister, legitimated by the ballot box.

Sunday, after voting in legislative elections, the first since his taking power, the former military 65 years of age, wearing black glasses and shirt, gaily, encouraged voters to go to the polls to “help the development of the country”.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha is confident in its chances of success, especially since the nomination was aborted in February the sister of the king to the post of Prime minister for a rival party.

Coommandant-in-chief of the army, he was only a few months from retirement when he took power on 22 may 2014, after six months of demonstrations against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. A coup d’état orchestrated, according to him, only by sense of duty to defend the monarchy.

Since then, he has replaced his uniform khaki for suits or ties or jackets traditional collar Mao colourful.

Known for his statements to the cookie-cutter, and his gaffes, Prayut Chan-O-Cha loves to dispense her advice on any type of subject, in particular its high mass televised weekly.

Leave to propose remedies perplexing, as “not shopping” to avoid debt, and to accuse, the tone of the joke, his opponents of using “black magic” against him.

He likes to cultivate the image of a man close to the people, reaching under the eye of the cameras of the villagers for a traditional folk dance improvised, kissing a toad, sweeping after floods or officer in a tracksuit for a session of aerobics in the middle of hundreds of officials.

It is also a makeshift poet and has composed eight songs from 2014, viewed thousands of times on the internet.

– Choleric –

All this does not hide his real personality, “quick to anger and very hierarchical”, going so far as to threaten journalists who dare to challenge him, ” says Paul Chambers, a specialist in political thai at the University of Naresuan, in the north of the country.

The general has participated in some of the dark recent history of the kingdom.

It is often described as the architect of the military onslaught of may 19, 2010, against the entrenched camp of “Red Shirts” (supporters of the Shinawatra) who occupied the centre of Bangkok to demand the resignation of the government of the time. Balance sheet, 90 dead and 1.900 injured.

It would have also supported the putsch against Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, after a diplomatic note to american released by the WikiLeaks website.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha is born in a family in the north-east of the country.

“As a child, it was very turbulent. But, in class, he was very applied, fearing his mother who was our teacher and wanted to push it to the maximum,” remembers Sukanya Pimolpan, a girlfriend of the time met by the AFP.

At 26, he became commander of the prestigious unit of the Guards of the queen in 1980.

This golf enthusiast, father of twin girls, is promoted to the head of the First army (the center of the country, including Bangkok) in 2006, before becoming number two to land forces, and then take the direction of the army in 2010.

Shortly after the coup, he had promised to restore order and democracy.

But it took nearly five years to organize elections, and has heightened the crackdown against dissenting voices.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha has also been adopt by 2016 a Constitution that allows the military to appoint the Senate, and thus have good chances to retain power.

It is clear that “Prayut wants to continue to lead the country (…) It may also have personal interests to protect, fearing what might happen if his opponents were to regain power,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.

“Technically, it could stay in power, two times four years, until 2027,” says Paul Chambers.

The general travel for months across the country to give him an image more sympathetic than that of the general putschiste temperament, easily offended.