Thai PM, coup-maker and ballad composer, dealt setback by suspension


Bangkok, Aug. 24: For eight years, nothing seemed to shake the hold on power for Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first came to office in a 2014 coup and has survived a hotly disputed election, mass street protests and four no-confidence votes.

Wednesday's decision by Thailand's Constitutional Court to suspend Prayuth, 68, from official duties was a rare setback, though it's unclear whether the ouster will become permanent.

Shortly after the then-army chief seized power from an elected government in 2014 following months of destabilising protests, Prayuth exhorted compatriots to heed traditional cultural values of harmony and respect for the royal family.

He even famously released a recording of a ballad he had written called Returning Happiness to Thailand shortly after the coup. It played on a loop on national radio, with lines such as Today the nation is facing menacing danger/The flames are rising/Let us be the ones who step in/Before it is too late.

The song - one of at least 10 he has released while leader - referred to political discord of more than a decade in Thailand.

For years, Bangkok's streets were periodically paralysed by duelling mass protests by the Red Shirt supporters of successive populist elected governments - one ousted in a 2006 coup - and counterprotests by Yellow Shirts, royalist-military supporters who viewed the populists as corrupt and a threat to the constitutionally mandated reverence for Thailand's king.-Agencies

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