BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s king has formally endorsed members of a new Cabinet, paving the way for a government headed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to take office more than three months after the general election.
Srettha, representing the Pheu Thai party, was named prime minister by Parliament on Aug. 22. A prominent real estate developer until officially entering politics last year, he will also hold the finance minister’s post.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued his royal approval on Friday.
The delay in forming a new government was caused by Parliament’s failure to endorse a coalition formed by the party that won the most seats in the May polls, the Move Forward party. It could not win a majority in a combined vote of the House of Representatives and the Senate because its progressive platform alienated members of the conservative Senate, who singled out its support for minor reforms to the monarchy as the reason for rejecting it.
The Pheu Thai Party, which placed second in the election, then formed a broader coalition without Move Forward and was able to win Senate support. But it succeeded only by including pro-military parties from the last government to join its coalition, reneging on a promise during its election campaign.
Pheu Thai is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006. Thaksin, a billionaire populist, fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid prison on charges he said were politically motivated, but returned to Thailand on Aug. 22 to serve an eight-year prison term. It was announced Friday that the king has commuted his sentence to one year.
Six members of the new Cabinet hold the prestigious deputy prime minister jobs, three of them Srettha’s colleagues in the Pheu Thai party. Three deputy prime ministers also hold major second portfolios.
Phumtham Wechayachai and Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara of Pheu Thai were appointed the ministers of commerce and foreign affairs, respectively. Anutin Charnvirakul of the Bhumjaithai Party, which holds the third highest numbers of seats in the lower house, was named interior minister.
Anutin was public health minister in the previous military-backed government of Prayuth Chan-ocha and is best known for spearheading the decriminalization of cannabis.
The new agriculture minister is Thammanat Prompao. of the Palang Pracharath Party, who served as deputy agriculture minister in the last government. He is an influential political figure in northern Thailand who was convicted and jailed in Australia in 1994 in connection with heroin smuggling.