Thai king endorses new cabinet weeks after disputed election

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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn attends the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony in central Bangkok, Thailand, May 9, 2019. (Reuters)
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Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanks coalition party members after the royal endorsement ceremony appointing him to his post in Bangkok, Thailand, June 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2019
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Thai king endorses new cabinet weeks after disputed election

  • Prayuth was chosen as prime minister by military-appointed senators and legislators after the election
  • The most important jobs all went to members of the former junta, but some key economic portfolios went to the 19 parties Prayuth had to bring on board

BANGKOK: Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn endorsed a new civilian cabinet of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday, 108 days after a disputed election and following heated wrangling between parties in the one-time coup leader’s coalition.
The endorsement was announced in the Royal Gazette.
Prayuth, the former army chief and junta leader who first seized power in 2014, was chosen as prime minister by military-appointed senators and legislators after the election, under a system his opponents said was unfair.
The most important jobs all went to members of the former junta, but some key economic portfolios went to the 19 parties Prayuth had to bring on board to give him a slim majority in the lower house of parliament.
“This is a government for all Thais,” Prayuth’s office said in a statement.
He urged ministers to work for “the benefit of the people and the country to propel Thailand forward in all dimensions despite many obstacles,” his office said.
But critics said the lineup, announced after horsetrading for potentially lucrative ministerial portfolios, showed the military had failed to keep its promise to clean up politics.
“We are back to the same politics driven by money and interests after five years of military rule,” said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the faculty of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.
Opponents of military rule complained that the election system was set up to ensure that Thailand’s generals kept their hands on power and that multiple obstacles hampered them in the March 24 general election.
The main opposition party said the cabinet was weak and there were signs of conflicts of interest in the way portfolios had been shared.
“We are not confident that they can solve people’s problems,” Laddawan Wongsriwong, spokeswoman of the Pheu Thai Party, told Reuters. “We believe that this cabinet will not make it far.”
Prayuth was also named as defense minister.
The new finance minister is Uttama Savanayana, leader of the Palang Pracharat Party that backed Prayuth. Uttama held the industry portfolio in the military government and before that held various positions in the private sector.
Prayuth’s loyalists from the military government including Prawit Wongsuwan, Somkid Jatusripitak and Wissanu Krea-ngam remain deputy prime ministers. Anupong Paochinda stayed as interior minister and Don Pramudwinai as foreign minister.
But Prayuth shared out some important economic portfolios with other parties in his coalition.
The traditionally conservative Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest, took the agriculture and commerce ministries. The Bhumjaithai Party — which put the legalization of marijuana at the center of its agenda — took the health, transport and tourism portfolios.
“This is more about matching parties’ interests rather than naming appropriate people for the right job,” said Wanwichit Boonprong, a political analyst at Rangit University.


Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

Updated 47 min 5 sec ago
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Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

  • At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week
  • South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season

GAUHATI, India: The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has risen to 152 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday.
At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week. A dozen have been killed in Bangladesh.
Shiv Kumar, a government official in Assam, said 10 rare one-horned rhinos have died in Kaziranga National Park since the Brahmaputra River burst its banks, flooding the reserve.
Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages across the state are still affected by the floods, though the frequency of rains has decreased in the past 24 hours, the Assam Disaster Response Authority said. More than 2.5 million have also been hit by flooding in India’s Bihar state.
Amid the flooding, 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon delivered her first baby on a boat in floodwaters early Friday while on her way to a hospital in Assam’s flooded Gagalmari village, locals said. The woman and the newborn were brought back to their home without getting to the hospital.
Community health worker Parag Jyoti Das, who visited the family, said there were no post-delivery health complications. However, the mother and the child were moved to a hospital on a boat to the nearby town of Jhargaon because of unhygienic conditions due to floodwaters, Das said. The health center in Khatoon’s village was flooded and closed.
“I would have felt happier if the baby’s father was here,” said Khatoon, whose husband works in a hotel in the southern state of Kerala.
More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, officials said.
Authorities warned they would take action against suppliers who were reported to be distributing poor quality rice and other essentials to marooned people and inmates of temporary shelters at some places.
“We have ordered the arrest of those unscrupulous elements supplying substandard materials and playing with the lives of the affected people,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s finance minister.
In Nepal, the Home Ministry said about 36,728 families were affected by the monsoon rains. The flooding and mudslides forced some 13,000 families to flee their homes.
In at least two of Nepal’s districts, helicopters were used to transport emergency food supplies, while other transport means were being used to move tents and other supplies to the victims.
South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season.