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New Thai PM Selects Bureaucrats, Economists for New Cabinet


Thailand's military-appointed interim prime minister has unveiled his new cabinet, with top posts going to high-ranking bureaucrats and economists. Thailand's financial analysts have welcomed the new team, which takes office less three weeks after a bloodless coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawtra.

The new 26-member cabinet of interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont was approved by the Thai king on Monday.

Mr. Surayud chose Thailand's respected central bank governor, Pridiyadhorn Devakula, as deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Another financier (Kosit Panpiemras) takes the post of industry minister, while the new foreign minister (Nitya Pibulsongkram) is a career diplomat and a former ambassador to the United States and the United Nations.

The defense portfolio has gone to a retired army general, one of two military officers in the team.

Adisak Kammol, a senior investment strategist at KGI Securities in Bangkok, says the financial markets welcome the appointment of senior bureaucrats such as Pridiyathorn, who is widely credited with steering Thailand out of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

"All in all, it's within the market's expectations. All the faces of the ministers are acceptable for the time being," Adisak said. "I think the market should accept all of the cabinet line-up. There's no problem. They will have to salvage what has been done by the past government."

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was kicked out of power in a bloodless military coup on September 19th, and martial law - which is still in effect - was declared. Mr. Thaksin had been widely accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Thepchai Yong, a senior executive editor with The Nation newspaper and media group, says many of those selected are experts in their own fields. He says the new government will focus on reviewing the policies of the Thaksin government.

"I think it's very clear that the new cabinet is dominated by former bureaucrats and technocrats," Thepchai said. "The idea is to make sure the mess by Thaksin will be cleaned up and then the legacy of Thaksin will be sort of over with."

There are concerns that some cabinet members, including the interior and energy ministers, are too closely associated with the former government. Thepchai says the new prime minister will have to justify their inclusion in the line-up.

"These are some of the decisions that General Surayudh will have to explain, why these people were brought in the first place," Thepchai said.

One major task for the government will be to convene a legislature, and a separate constitutional drafting committee, and to organize general elections for a new parliament scheduled for October 2007.

Mr. Surayud has said another focus of his administration will be to end the on-going insurgent violence in Thailand's largely Muslim southern provinces. More than 1,500 people have died in almost three years of bloodshed in that region.

The military has already undertaken low-level talks with insurgent groups, and Muslim leaders have welcomed the new government's proposals for further talks.