Thailand’s coup-chief-turned-premier Prayut Chan-ocha has regained sweeping emergency powers to fight the coronavirus outbreak, pinning his political fate to the response he crafts as discontent grows.
This week he confirmed a $58 billion stimulus package to mitigate the economic fallout, after earlier efforts were described as insufficient for a country heading into recession. Even before the virus crisis, Prayut and his establishment backers faced escalating protests from critics who dispute the fairness of the election last year that led to his return as leader.
"There’s a lot of pent up frustration toward current rulers,” said Paul Chambers, a politics expert at Thailand’s Naresuan University. Prayut could trumpet stable leadership if he controls the situation, or suffer insurmountable damage if infections and economic losses spiral, he said.