BANGKOK Former prime minister of Thailand Prem Tinsulanonda, a retired general and the head of the Royal Privy Council, died on Sunday at the age of 98, official sources said, marking the demise of one the most influential figures in the tumultuous political scene of the country in recent decades.
The people of Thailand have lost a very important person. Prem passed away last night at the age of 98, Paisal Puechmongkol, a lawyer close to deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan the number-two in the military junta ruling the country since 2014 said in a Facebook post.
The veteran leader died following cardiac failure early in the morning at a Bangkok hospital after being admitted late at night, his aides told reporters.
With a career closely linked to the military and monarchy, Prem assumed office in 1980 while serving as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He held the post of prime minister for eight years, a period recognized as semi-democracy, in the country marked by many failed coup attempts and is credited for ending the communist insurgency in northern Thailand
The former general, who continued to command a lot of respect in the military, was considered the biggest confidante of King Bhumibol, who had named him the head of the Privy Council in 1988 and continued to be close to him until his death in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.
As the principal advisor to the King, Prem continued to exercise a significant influence in domestic politics and is considered the mastermind behind the 2006 coup which ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra, whose political groups have won all the elections held in the country since the turn of the century.
The coup led to serious political instability, with periodic outbreaks of street violence between supporters and opponents of Shinawatra which led to the last military intervention in the country in 2014.
Prem had last appeared in public in the beginning of the month, during the coronation ceremony of King Vajiralongkorn, the son and successor of Bhumibol, who had kept the former prime minister as the head of the Privy Council after ascending the throne.