Prayuth Says New Senators Have King’s Endorsement

Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures at a young musician on May 15, 2019, during a visit to Khlong Toei district in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday warned critics that the regime’s selection of new senators was approved by none other than His Majesty the King.

Rejecting allegations of nepotism, Gen. Prayuth assured reporters that the new senators – nearly all of whom were handpicked by the junta chief himself – are qualified for the powerful positions. He also deflected questions about the selection process which ended up costing taxpayers 1.3 billion baht.

“Remember this,” Prayuth said, pointing his finger at reporters. “Anything that has been endorsed and considered by His Majesty has always already gone under scrutiny. That’s the most important thing.”

Prayuth also said there was nothing wrong with packing the upper house with officials who have served under his government since the May 2014 coup.

“Since [the senators] will have to continue on with existing tasks, I have to pick some people who are already familiar with them,” the general said.

The junta came under fire from critics after the senate roster turned out to be full of regime loyalists and even relatives of junta members. Among the senators are Prayuth’s brother Preecha Chan-ocha, and Patcharawat Wongsuwan, who is a younger brother of deputy junta leader Prawit Wongsuwan.

The list was unveiled after months of secretive selection, in which candidates were not disclosed to the public. The government said it spent 1.3 billion baht on the process, which critics said was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Can’t they just phone each other? Why the need for such big spending?” Facebook user Chol Pannavich wrote.

When questioned about the money today, Prayuth said it was the Election Commission who was responsible for setting the procedures and finding candidates, not him.

“Who selected them? Who?” Prayuth quipped in a flash of anger. “It was the EC!”