AP and Reuters

Thailand“s King endorses new cabinet months after elections


Pheu Thai’s Srettha Thavisin gestures at the party headquarters before a royal endorsement ceremony after Thailand’s parliament voted in favour of his prime ministerial candidacy, in Bangkok, Thailand August 23, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn endorsed a new cabinet, including real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin as the country’s new prime minister and finance minister, according to a Royal gazette published on Saturday, months after the May elections.

Srettha’s Pheu Thai party, backed by the billionaire Shinawatra family, will oversee defence, transport, commerce, health and the foreign ministry portfolios.

Thailand has had a caretaking government since March, and the Move Forward party, winners of the May elections, have struggled to form a government without support from conservative lawmakers over its progressive agenda.

The second-place Pheu Thai broke off an alliance with Move Forward and brought on rival parties aligned with army generals that ousted Shinawatra-linked parties in 2006 and 2014 coups.

The announcement of the new cabinet comes weeks after Srettha, former president of luxury property developer Sansiri, (SIRI.BK) won a parliamentary vote in August to become prime minister.

On the day of the vote, Pheu Thai figurehead Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand in a dramatic homecoming after living abroad for 15 years in self-exile to avoid an 8-year prison sentence. On his first night back, Thaksin was transferred to a police hospital over chest paints and high blood pressure. He later submitted a request for a royal pardon.

On Friday, the king commuted the sentence to one year, citing his loyalty to the monarchy and his poor health.

Srettha’s rapid ascent to power, Thaksin’s smooth return and a coalition between Pheu Thai and former rivals fuelled speculation about an agreement between Thaksin and his foes among the country’s powerful conservative and royalist army. Thaksin and the Pheu Thai party say that is not the case.

The new cabinet has Pheu Thai controlling ministries overseeing the economy ministries, which will be crucial in implementing its policies, including a 10,000 baht ($285.63)handout in the form of digital currency.

Its largest coalition partner, Bhumjaithai, best known for advocating the use of medical cannabis, will oversee the education, interior and labour ministries.

Conservative and pro-military parties will lead the energy and environment ministries.

Srettha and his cabinet of 33 ministers will swear an oath before an audience with the king, then deliver a policy statement at parliament before they start work this month.

Srettha had said the first cabinet meeting would tackle cost of living problems by reducing electricity and gas prices, and relaxing visa entry rules for Chinese arrivals to boost tourism.

($1 = 35.0100 baht)

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