Thailand’s king approved a new cabinet Wednesday featuring some familiar names to serve with junta leader-turned-elected Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who a day earlier partially abolished executive orders introduced during five previous years of military rule.
Thirty-three men and three women were named to 39 cabinet positions, including Prayuth, a former army chief who takes on a new parallel role as defense minister, according to an announcement in the Royal Gazette.
He and eight other cabinet members carried over from leadership roles that were in place after a military coup led by him toppled the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in May 2014.
“This is a government for all Thais,” Prayuth’s office said in a statement.
A Thai political scientist, however, cast doubt on that assertion.
“As he takes the post of defense minister, it indicates that the shadow of the junta remains intact,” Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of political science department at Ubon Ratchathani University, told BenarNews. “The military doesn’t vanish and this government doesn’t promote democracy.”
Other cabinet members come from six coalition parties and outsiders handpicked by Prayuth, including Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan who gave up the defense minister position but retains the role of deputy prime minister, and Gen. Anupong Paochinda, who remains interior secretary overseeing domestic government and para-military forces.
Uttama Savanayana, the leader of the Palang Pracharat Party, which nominated Prayuth for prime minister, was named finance minister, while Jurin Laksanawisit, the leader of the Democrat Party, became one of five deputy prime ministers and commerce minister.
Anutin Charnvirakul, the leader of Bhumjaithai Party, which promotes free marijuana cultivation, became minister of public health and another deputy prime minister, while Don Pramudwinai retained his post as foreign minister.
The cabinet is expected to be sworn in by King Maha Vajiralongkorn next week, official sources said. Prayuth received the king’s blessing last month to serve as prime minister after parliament members voted to keep him in the post.
The king’s endorsement came nine days after Prayuth apologized to the Thai people for a delay in forming his cabinet nearly a month after parliament elected him as prime minister following Thailand’s first general election in eight years. The PM pointed to quarreling among members of the new ruling coalition.
Before the new cabinet was revealed, Prayuth also said that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – the official name of the junta – and the draconian Article 44 would end when he and the new cabinet were sworn in before the monarch.
Article 44, which was adopted as part of the 2014 interim constitution that brought his military government to power, gave Prayuth absolute authority to give orders he deemed necessary for the country’s good, such as clamping down on free speech and making arrests without warrants.
“I won’t be using Article 44 anymore,” Prayuth told reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Earlier this week, however, Prayuth maintained two key NCPO orders – one banning political gatherings of more than five people and one allowing authorities to search homes without a court warrant as well as to hold suspects for seven days without filing charges.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, an advocacy group, said such power should be used only in emergencies.
“The orders which allow the military to detain individuals for seven days without verification of the detention place, visits by relatives or lawyers, and court supervision is unlawful,” the group said in a statement. “It violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Titipol, the political scientist, said Prayuth had failed to improve politics in Thailand after staging the coup.
“There is no such thing as political reform,” Titipol said, suggesting that the appointment of ministerial seats was based on reconciling political interests and not filling cabinet posts with the best people.
“In four years to come, there likely will not be any policy changes on anything, such as human rights or freedom of speech. There will be continued violations of people’s rights,” he added.
Nontarat Phaicharoen in Bangkok contributed to this report.