Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin speaks to the media during a press conference after leading his cabinet to take the oath of allegiance before the king, at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, 05 September 2023. EFE-EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Thai PM, cabinet take oath before king

Bangkok, Sep 2 (EFE).- Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and his ministers were sworn in Tuesday before King Vajiralongkorn, marking the de facto start of the new government after May’s elections.

Thai Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Thamanat Prompow greets members of the media upon his arrival at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, 05 September 2023. EFE-EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

More than 30 members of the new executive, which only includes five women – all deputy ministers – and includes politicians from two pro-military parties, participated in the swearing-in ceremony at the Royal Palace, after taking a group photo at the government headquarters in Bangkok.

A handout photo made available by the Royal Household Bureau shows Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and cabinet members to sworn an oath (L) in front of the King Maha Vajiralongkorn (2-R) and Thai Queen Suthida (R), in the Royal palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 05 September 2023. EFE-EPA/THE ROYAL HOUSEHOLD BUREAU / HO HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

The group is formed more than three months after the May 14 elections due to the blockade exercised by the unelected senate and two weeks after the return from exile of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, considered the shadow leader of Pheu Thai. He remains in a police hospital serving a reduced sentence of one year in prison.

One of the most controversial ministers in the new government is Thammanat Phromphao, the head of Agriculture, part of the pro-military Palang Pracharat formation and who served a four-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in Australia in the 1990s.

Srettha, who reneged on his promise not to ally with pro-military parties, has argued that the coalition allows Thailand to get out of the blockade provoked by the senate and that it is urgent to start working to improve the economy and reduce inequality.

The prime minister also holds the finance portfolio, while Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, a veteran Pheu Thai politician and former chairman of Thai state oil company PTT, is foreign minister.

Sutin Klungsang, also from Pheu Thai, becomes defense minister, breaking with the trend for the portfolio to be in the hands of a military man or the head of government.

The government formation follows the decision Friday by King Vajiralongkorn to reduce Thaksin’s prison sentence from eight years to one after he returned to the country after 15 years in self-imposed exile.

Thaksin, who entered the country the same day parliament appointed Srettha as prime minister, entered prison shortly after landing, but was transferred to the Police Hospital hours later due to health problems, sparking criticism of favored treatment.

The former prime minister ruled Thailand between 2001 and 2006, when he was deposed by a coup perpetrated by the military, who took power again in 2014 when they rose up against a government of Pheu Thai, the party allied to the Shinawatra.

The Pheu Thai, who came second in May’s elections, first allied itself with the winning formation, Move Forward, which led a pro-democratic and anti-military coalition that was unable to form a government due to the blockade of the senate, handpicked by the former military junta.

Following the senators’ blockade, Pheu Thai formed another coalition that includes two pro-military parties, Palang Pracharat and United Thai Nation, an unusual alliance that has caused anger among many voters seeking pro-democratic change in Thailand. EFE