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Thailand's new king appoints his privy council

The new reign starts with a revamping of the aging royal advisory body

BANGKOK -- In one of his first official acts, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has retired eight members of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 16-member privy council and named his own 11-member advisory body.

Over half the revamped privy council are retired military figures, including Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, who retains the privy council presidency. A former army chief and prime minister in the 1980s, Prem was appointed to the position in 1998. He served as regent pro tempore after King Bhumibol's death on Oct. 13 while Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the heir apparent, observed a 50-day period of mourning before formally succeeding.

Apart from Prem, seven members of the new privy council have been retained from the late king's council. They include Surayud Chulanont, 73, another former army chief who was appointed prime minister from 2006 to 2008, and who for some time has been viewed as a likely successor to Prem.

The most prominent departure is Thanin Kraivichien, 89, a former prime minister appointed by King Bhumibol after being ousted in a coup in 1977. Thanin recently served as acting president of the privy council while Prem was regent.

The three new appointments are all military, and two are serving cabinet ministers: Gen. Dapong Ratanasuwan, the education minister; Gen. Teerachai Nakwanich, a former army chief; and Gen. Paiboon Khumchaya, the justice minister.

The elevations of the two ministers to the privy council will require a cabinet reshuffle to replace them, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

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