BANGKOK – Thailand’s military-dominated legislature has held its first session, after the army took power in a coup on May 22. The body is expected to appoint a prime minster and cabinet later this year.
The 197-member National Legislative Assembly met at the parliament in the Thai capital Bangkok on Friday, one day after its inauguration.
The members unanimously elected former Supreme Court judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai (pictured, center) as the body’s president. He was the only candidate for the post when the NLA began its session on Friday (Aug 8), according to officials at the parliament.
Surachai Liangboonchai and Peerasuk Porchit were voted in as vice presidents.
The body is also tasked with nominating an interim prime minister, who will then choose cabinet members.
More than half of the current lawmakers hold military ranks – only 84 of them are civilians, including academics, business people and former senators.
The Thai military took power on May 22, after a period of prolonged political conflict, demonstrations and street violence. The country has been deeply divided since the toppling by military coup of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The ruling junta appointed the assembly’s members under the provisions of an interim constitution adopted in July. The document legitimized the May coup, and granted sweeping powers that paved the way for junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to become prime minister.
Army chief Prayuth has ruled out the possibility of full free elections being held in Thailand until at least October 2015, ignoring calls from Western countries for the democratic system to be put back in place.
The country’s National Council for Peace and Order has said it would remain in place alongside the interim government, to assist in maintaining national security.
The dominance of military officers in the legislature is expected to reinforce the army’s hold on power in the lead-up to the 2015 polls.