BANGKOK — Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha was royally endorsed as the leader of the country, although His Majesty the King, who is 86 and unwell, did not attend the ceremony in person.
An official royal gazette was released confirming Gen. Prayuth's endorsement after a ceremony this morning at the Army Club in Bangkok's Theves district.
Reporters were not allowed to view the ceremony.
According to the royal gazette, Gen. Prayuth informed His Majesty the King about the "consistent violence in Bangkok and other areas" that led him to seize power on 22 May and appoint himself as the head of the National Council of Peace and Order (NPCO).
"Therefore, to ensure peace and order to the country and harmony of the people," the gazette reads, "His Majesty the King hereby appoints Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as the leader of the National Council of Peace and Order with the authority to administer the country from here on out."
The royal endorsement was released four days after the military coup, although it is dated 24 May, which is two days after the coup.
The palace’s delay in formally approving the NCPO’s coup had puzzled many observers. In past successful coups, royal approval has been issued almost immediately and all coup attempts that did not receive royal endorsements have failed.
In a press conference held after the ceremony, Gen. Prayuth reiterated that the NCPO’s chief task is to maintain peace and order.
An election will be held "when peace is restored," Gen. Prayuth said, without a timeframe. He was similarly vague concerning the appointment of a new Prime Minister, only saying that the matter is "underway."
Gen. Prayuth insisted that the junta has no desire for power, and that the military's actions are needed to resolve the prolonged political crisis in Thailand that has reached a “deadend.”He asked the media not to criticise the NCPO's mission or to "escalate the conflict" in any way.
"I am not here to pick a fight with anyone," Gen. Prayuth told reporters, "Please assist me. Don't criticise me."
Since seizing power last week, the NCPO has suspended most of the 2007 Constitution, dissolved both houses of Parliament, and assumed martial court jurisdiction over a broad range of criminal offenses.
The military has also summoned over 200 politicians, activists, journalists, and academics to report to the Army Club, and has detained many of them in undisclosed locations.
This is the 12th successful military coup in modern Thai history. The last coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.
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