BANGKOK – Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who served almost nine years in office after seizing power in a 2014 military coup, said Tuesday that he is leaving politics.
His announcement came after the political party for which he served as a prime minister candidate this year finished fifth in May’s general election, capturing just 36 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives.
Prayuth, 69, a former army commander, made the announcement on the Facebook page of Ruam Thai Sang Chart, or the United Thai Nation Party. He had been their nominee to return as prime minister.
“I would like to announce my retirement from politics by resigning as a member of United Thai Nation,” Prayuth wrote. “I’d like to ask the party leader, executives and members to continue their political activities with a strong ideology of protecting the institutions, the nation, the religion and the monarchy, and take care of the Thai people.”
Parliament on Thursday is due to select a new prime minister. The nominee from the top-running, progressive Move Forward Party who has assembled a majority coalition of eight parties with 312 seats in the Lower House, must win a majority vote of at least 376 of the combined vote of the House and the non-elected Senate, which has 250 members. Because of political differences with the conservative Senate, it is uncertain that the party's leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, can get approved.
After serving as prime minister in the unelected military government that came to power in the 2014 coup, Prayuth was returned to the job after the 2019 election as a candidate of the army-backed Palang Pracharath Party. Prime ministers do not need to be Members of Parliament, and Prayuth didn't contest the polls in 2019 or this year.
Had Prayuth been returned to office this year, he would only have been able to serve two more years under constitutional term limits. He was already one of Thailand’s longest-serving prime ministers.
Prayuth did not specify a reason for leaving politics but listed what he considered his accomplishments in office and said: “In these past nine years, I as prime minister have worked with my full determination and strength to protect the nation, the religion and the monarchy, and for the best interest of the beloved people."