Thailand replaces junta with new Cabinet

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Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends a group photo with his cabinet members at the Government House in Bangkok Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends a group photo with his cabinet members at the Government House in Bangkok Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand’s new Cabinet was sworn in Tuesday, creating a nominally elected government after five years of military rule but keeping power in the hands of the same allies of the army.

HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn presided over the swearing-in of the Cabinet, whose 36 members pledged their loyalty to the constitutional monarch. The Cabinet’s inauguration dissolved the junta that had governed since 2014.

“Every task has obstacles. Every mission faces problems,” the king told the Cabinet members. “It is normal to take on work and solve problems so that the country can be run smoothly according to circumstances.” The Cabinet then held its first meeting at Government House.

“This Cabinet either represents old wine in a new bottle,” said Paul Chambers, a political scientist at Naraesuan University in northern Thailand, referring to major posts held by members of the previous military government, “or a product of a multiparty and multi-factional balance of power.”

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, described the Cabinet as “dominated by patronage politics and paybacks,” including at least two members with questionable reputations who were recruited for their abilities to turn out the vote.

“The unsavory few who have had a shady and criminalized past are surprising because they will be a lightning rod on the Prayuth government’s credibility,” he said in an email interview.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, in a Monday night speech marking the political transition, said “Thailand is now fully governed as a democratic country with a constitutional monarch, possessing a parliament that is elected and a government endorsed by the parliament. Several rights and liberties are safeguarded by the constitution in line with the highest international norms. Pending problems will be solved through democratic processes without the application of any special powers.”