Thailand junta leader receives royal command to be PM in ceremony

Thailand's newly appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays his respects as he receives the royal endorsement, in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Royal Army headquarters in Bangkok in this Aug 25, 2014 handout photo p
Thailand's newly appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays his respects as he receives the royal endorsement, in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Royal Army headquarters in Bangkok in this Aug 25, 2014 handout photo provided by the Thailand Government House. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand’s coup leader was formally endorsed as prime minister by the nation’s revered king on Monday, in a step towards forming a government to oversee sweeping reforms in the politically turbulent kingdom.

In a brief but elaborate ceremony to receive the royal command, Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, 60 – wearing a white official uniform – knelt and bowed in front of a large portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “His majesty the king has appointed me prime minister. I am extremely grateful... this is a great honour for me and my family,” General Prayuth said after the ceremony. “I will work with honesty and for the benefit of people and the nation,” he added.

The top general, who was endorsed as premier on Sunday but was officially given the royal command a day later, will also remain head of the junta as the military appears to tighten its grip on power.

A junta spokesman said Gen Prayuth would pick a Cabinet and propose ministers for the King’s approval in September.

Gen Prayuth, who ousted an elected government in a bloodless power grab on May 22, was chosen uncontested as premier last week by a national assembly made up mainly of military figures.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), says it was forced to take power after months of protests left nearly 30 people dead and hundreds more wounded, paralysing the government, cramping the economy and frightening off tourists.

It has ruled out holding new elections before October 2015, despite international appeals for a return to democracy, vowing first to oversee reforms aimed at cleaning up politics and society.