BANGKOK-Thailand’s new prime minister took office on Wednesday with the endorsement of the king, heading a controversial coalition including pro-military parties linked to former coup-makers.
The appointment of former property mogul Srettha Thavisin -- of the Pheu Thai party long associated with billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- ends months of political deadlock following May’s general election. The 61-year-old was confirmed by parliamentary vote on Tuesday, just hours after Thaksin returned to the kingdom from 15 years of exile and was immediately jailed on old graft cases. Srettha received King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s written command to form a government in a ceremony at Pheu Thai headquarters at 6:00 pm (1100 GMT), and is likely to announce his cabinet in the coming days. Outgoing prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha -- a former army chief who overthrew the last Pheu Thai government in a coup -- congratulated Srettha and wished him luck.
Prayut suffered a heavy defeat in May’s polls as the upstart progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) rode a wave of youth and urban discontent with nearly a decade of military-backed rule to win the most seats. But MFP’s push to reform royal insult laws and take on powerful vested business interests spooked the kingdom’s elite and saw leader Pita Limjaroenrat blocked from becoming prime minister.