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.


150 migrants storm border with Spain’s Melilla enclave

Updated 19 January 2021

150 migrants storm border with Spain’s Melilla enclave

  • 90 migrants managing to cross from Morocco into Melilla at a point where the border fence crosses the Nano river
  • Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa

MADRID: Around 150 migrants stormed the border fence separating the Spanish enclave Melilla from Morocco early on Tuesday with nearly 90 managing to cross, officials said.
The incident took place just before dawn where the fence crosses the Nano river, a spokesman for the Spanish government’s local delegation said, indicating “87 of them” got across despite efforts to stop them by the Moroccan and Spanish security forces.
It was the biggest mass attempt to cross the border fence since August 20 when some 300 people stormed the fence, although only around 30 managed to get across and one died during the attempt.
During Tuesday’s incident, nine migrants were hurt while trying to get into the tiny Spanish territory, while the rest were being registered at the migrant reception center, he said.
Interior ministry figures show that in the first two weeks of the year, 60 migrants managed to illegally cross the fence into Melilla while another 70 managed to cross into Ceuta, Spain’s other North African enclave.
Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.
They are favored entry points for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe, who get there by either climbing over the border fence or by swimming along the coast.
The border crossings between Morocco and both enclaves have been closed since the start of the pandemic last March.