Thai army chief claims king’s support as new leader

Bangkok : Thailand’s army chief, who seized power in a coup last week, Monday claimed to have received the endorsement of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcemnt amid widespread international criticism and rising detention of those viewed as opposed to the takeover.

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Prayuth told journalists Monday that King Adulyadej, 86, had officially backed him as the leader of the military council now running the country, The Guardian reported.

He seized power Thursday following six months of political in-fighting between the now-deposed government and its critics, who had taken to the streets and besieged government buildings to oust it.

At least 28 people were killed and over 700 suffered injuries in clashes after anti-government protests began in November.

Vowing to restore order across Thailand, the army chief said he would have no choice but to use violence if anti-coup demonstrators, who over the past four days have taken to the streets in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya, continued to protest.

“The most important thing right now is to keep peace and order in the country,” said Prayuth, dressed in a white military uniform and flanked by 14 officers, at the televised press conference. “The less you allow me to speak, the more I’ll be able to work.”

The royal endorsement officially allows Prayuth to head the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which will establish a legislative assembly and reform committee, draw up a temporary constitution, and appoint a prime minister.

He promised the polls would take place when Thailand was “at peace”.