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Turbulent Thailand

Newly elected Thai leader faces tricky task in forming cabinet

After winning royal endorsement, Prayuth vows to fight corruption and inequality

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha talks to reporters in Bangkok. He is expected to appoint his cabinet as early as this month.   © AP

BANGKOK -- Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was officially proclaimed the elected prime minister by King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Tuesday, now faces the complicated job of assembling a cabinet from among the 19 diverse parties that make up the ruling coalition.

"I will listen to the voice of the people, and work to eradicate corruption and reduce inequality," Prayuth said, who had led Thailand's military junta since the 2014 coup.

The retired general is expected to announce his new cabinet as early as this month. But its makeup remains unclear and will likely require a delicate balancing act.

A total of 500 members of the bicameral National Assembly voted to keep Prayuth in power, including virtually all 250 in the military-appointed upper house. In a speech after the ceremony, Prayuth thanked the parliament and his Palang Pracharat Party for giving him the opportunity to serve the country as prime minister.

The military-backed Palang Pracharat had only won 116 of the 500 seats in the lower house in March's general election. The party only secured a majority by forming a coalition with the Democrat Party, the Bhumjaithai Party and other partners. In exchange, the Democrats are believed to have laid claim to the agricultural and commerce minister posts, and Bhumjaithai to transport minister.

But some within Palang Pracharat want the party to retain control of all economy-related cabinet posts, so the government can continue pursuing economic policies that began under the junta. "We need to find an appropriate agreement with the people's interests in mind," Prayuth said.

The ruling coalition just barely holds a majority in the lower house. If any party decides to abandon the framework over cabinet appointments, Prayuth will face significant obstacles to passing legislation and crafting new policies.

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