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

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.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 48 min 3 sec ago

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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