BANGKOK – In a culmination of protracted political wrangling that endured for over three months subsequent to the general election, Thailand’s revered King, Maha Vajiralongkorn, has bestowed his formal approval upon the assembly of a novel Cabinet. This heralds the long-awaited inauguration of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s administration.
The ascent of Mr. Srettha, a luminary in the realm of real estate prior to his foray into politics last year, finds him at the helm of both the Prime Minister’s office and the prestigious position of Finance Minister. This pivotal moment materialized subsequent to his election as Prime Minister by the country’s Parliament on August 22.
This protracted delay in government formation stems from Parliament’s initial failure to ratify a coalition forged by the Move Forward party, the party that garnered the most seats in the May polls. The coalition’s ambitious and progressive agenda, including modest reforms to the monarchy, faced the ire of conservative Senate members, precipitating its inability to secure a majority in a combined vote of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
In a deft maneuver, the Pheu Thai Party, which secured the second position in the election, orchestrated a broader coalition sans the Move Forward party, thereby securing Senate support. However, this victory came at the cost of assimilating pro-military parties from the preceding administration, a stark departure from the party’s election promises.
It is imperative to note that the Pheu Thai Party boasts the backing of the controversial former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a military coup in 2006. Mr. Thaksin, a billionaire populist, had fled Thailand in 2008 to evade what he claimed were politically motivated charges. Astonishingly, he returned to Thailand on August 22 to serve an eight-year prison term, only to receive news that his sentence had been commuted to a single year by the King.
The nascent Cabinet comprises six distinguished Deputy Prime Ministers, among them three colleagues from the Pheu Thai party. In addition to their deputy roles, three of these individuals also shoulder major second portfolios.
Prominent Pheu Thai members Phumtham Wechayachai and Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara have assumed the positions of Minister of Commerce and Minister of Foreign Affairs, respectively. Anutin Charnvirakul of the Bhumjaithai Party, which commands the third-highest seat count in the lower house, has been appointed Interior Minister. Anutin, renowned for spearheading the decriminalization of cannabis, had previously served as the public health minister in the preceding military-backed administration under Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The mantle of Agriculture Minister has fallen upon Thammanat Prompao, a prominent figure in northern Thailand’s political landscape. He hails from the Palang Pracharath Party and had previously served as Deputy Agriculture Minister. Notably, Thammanat’s past includes a conviction and imprisonment in Australia in 1994, owing to involvement in heroin smuggling.
The King’s endorsement marks the culmination of an arduous journey through Thailand’s political labyrinth, setting the stage for Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and his Cabinet to steer the nation through a complex and challenging landscape.