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Thai military-dominated legislature meets for the 1st time after junta's appointment

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BANGKOK — Thailand's military-dominated interim legislature on Friday held its first meeting since it was appointed by the junta following a coup more than two months ago.

The 197-member National Legislative Assembly will enact laws and nominate the interim prime minister, who will then choose Cabinet members. Its appointment last month was part of the junta's roadmap to return Thailand to elected democracy, expected to take place by October 2015.

PHOTO: Newly elected President of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, center, poses with his two deputies Surachai Liengboonlertchai, right, and Peerasak Porchit, left, after they were voted for the positions at the meeting of the NLA at the Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. In their inaugural meeting, they voted unanimously to elect former Harvard-educated Supreme Court Judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai as the assembly president. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
Newly elected President of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, center, poses with his two deputies Surachai Liengboonlertchai, right, and Peerasak Porchit, left, after they were voted for the positions at the meeting of the NLA at the Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. In their inaugural meeting, they voted unanimously to elect former Harvard-educated Supreme Court Judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai as the assembly president. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

The junta, officially called the National Council for Peace and Order, has granted itself what amounts to supreme power over political developments in the interim constitution it drafted. The junta is scheduled to appoint another council in October to work with a constitution drafting committee for a permanent charter by July next year.

The dominance of active and retired military officers in the legislative body reinforces the army's hold on power in the run-up to the 2015 polls.

In their inaugural meeting, the assembly members, including more than 100 with military and police ranks, voted unanimously to elect former Harvard-educated Supreme Court Judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai as their president.

Junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha says the May 22 bloodless coup that ousted a 3-year-old elected government was necessary to restore order after six months of anti-government protests and political turmoil left at least 28 people dead and paralyzed state institutions.

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