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With close allies in Cabinet, Thai PM under pressure to perform or face criticism

Thailand's newly-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has received royal endorsement for his new Cabinet made up of senior military officers and close allies.

BANGKOK: Thailand's newly-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has received royal endorsement for his new Cabinet made up of senior military officers and close allies. The 32-member line-up will fill 34 positions. The next task for the newly-formed interim government will be to get the country back on track both politically and economically.

After nine months without a fully functional government, Thailand is now seemingly back on track with the appointment of a Cabinet. The 32-member line-up places 12 retired military and police top brass in key positions including the defence, foreign affairs and education ministries.

Two former Cabinet members under the 2006 military government have also been included, with Pridiyathorn Devakul - a former finance minister and Bank of Thailand governor - taking up the role of deputy prime minister.

With such close allies in his Cabinet, the prime minister will be under pressure to perform or face heavy criticism.

Democrat Party leader, Abhisit Vejajjiva, said: "I think General Prayuth knows that ultimately he'll be held responsible for what happens over the next year, whether he can deliver reforms, whether the coup does actually achieve its stated objectives. So I think he wants to be in control."

While the military has been somewhat successful over the past few months cracking down on corruption, Mr Abhisit, a former prime minister, believes the new Cabinet will face a new set of problems. "Now they have to deliver the reforms and they have to make sure that they can manage the economy," he said.

Others are skeptical of the military's involvement in key ministries. Sean Boonpracong, former National Security Advisor to the Pheu Thai government, said: "In the issue of foreign policy, it's a little bit surprising that General Tanasak is the lead man. He has to explain why Thailand has been involved in several coups to a political system that most do not accept."

Some business analysts say the interim government's push on the economy will be centred around financial reform rather than populist policies designed to stimulate growth.

Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng, said: "The government will focus on reforming economic policies, tax reform, for example, energy reform. This technocrat government in this special scenario should try to do that task. If not this time, Thailand would not have a moment to reform the country."

The next step in General Prayuth's road map will be to set up the country for fresh elections. However the process will rely heavily on the soon-to-be announced National Reform Council, which will not be formally installed for the next few months.That means a vote could be a long way off.

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