The coalition government, which has been royally endorsed, will not have the luxury of “a honeymoon period” as the country’s economy is in bad shape and is in need of urgent action from the new government, observers in the private sector said.
His Majesty the King on Wednesday issued a royal command appointing new cabinet ministers nominated by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, according to the Royal Gazette.
The cabinet line-up comes after more than three months of intense political wheeling and dealing regarding the allocation of cabinet posts among political parties.
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Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, said there will no honeymoon period for the new government, as it must get to work straight away on tackling economic problems gripping the country.
The private sector has been waiting for the new government to step in for almost four months since the March 24 election, she said.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said on Wednesday he wanted the new government to expedite efforts to solve the country’s problems — especially bread-and-butter issues, which are closer to people’s daily lives.
“The new government needs to ramp up spending on state projects which have stalled, inject more capital to stimulate the economy, and carry on with infrastructure development, including the expansion of Thailand’s road network and dual-track railway projects, Mr Kalin said.
The Royal Gazette on Wednesday published the royal command naming Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, Somkid Jatusripitak and Wissanu Krea-ngam as deputy prime ministers. The other two deputy premiers belong to the leaders of two key coalition partners.
Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanavisit is the new deputy prime minister and commerce minister, while Bhumjaithai party leader Anutin Charnvirakul is deputy prime minister and public health minister.
Gen Prayut concurrently serves as defence minister.
Other highlights include Capt Thammanat Prompao, once considered an influential figure, as the new deputy agriculture minister; while MR Chatumongol Sonakul, leader of the Action Coalition for Thailand Party, is the new labour minister.
Stithorn Thananithichot, the acting director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy under King Prajadhipok Institute, told the Bangkok Post that some of the ministers have yet to be accepted by the public.
However, he said, it was necessary for the prime minister to maintain a balance of power among factions within the party and ensure they are “rewarded” to keep them satisfied.
Capt Thammanat is a case in point. Despite his public image problems, he managed to secure a cabinet post because he has shown that he can deal with factions which could pose problems for the coalition, Mr Stithorn said.
Given its razor-thin majority in the House, if the PPRP allows other coalition parties — the Democrats and Bhumjaithai — to shine and carry out their election pledges, it would help prevent a premature end to the coalition government, he said.
However, the government will be subject to fierce scrutiny from the opposition, whose priority now is to seek a review of Gen Prayut’s eligibility along with that of some cabinet ministers to serve in their respective posts, he said.
Some 101 MPs from seven opposition parties have signed a petition seeking a probe into Gen Prayut’s eligibility and submitted it to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, who forwarded it to the Constitution Court.
The lawmakers want the court to rule whether Gen Prayut’s status as premier should be terminated under the constitution, as he is a state official in his capacity as National Council for Peace and Order chief — and as such, is not eligible to hold the premiership.
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Deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said Gen Prayut has congratulated the newly-appointed cabinet ministers. “The prime minister also stressed the new government belongs to all Thais, and all cabinet ministers will join forces and work for the good of the country to the best of their abilities,” he said.
The next step will be the swearing-in of the ministers in the presence of His Majesty the King, as required by the constitution.
After they are sworn in, the cabinet will hold its first meeting to approve the government’s policy manifesto, which combines election pledges of all coalition parties.