BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Amid speculation and concern about the failure to set up a Cabinet three months after a March election, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday (June 25) confirmed that the new government would be ready by mid-July.
Mr Prayut said a check of ministers' qualifications was underway. The line-up would be submitted for royal endorsement soon after Mr Prayut returns from Japan, where he will attend the Group of 20 Summit on Friday and Saturday.
"It will be finished just in time," Mr Prayut told reporters in a press briefing after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
He conceded that there might be changes to the line-up circulated in the media, but said the disappointed candidates could still work in the Lower House as MPs.
He added that he believed this should not create problems within the bloc if everyone agreed it was in the best interest of the country.
The junta leader-turned-elected prime minister appears to be pacing himself and not rushing the process of finalising the new Cabinet.
This is despite the fact that Mr Prayut has been asked almost daily by reporters about progress in this regard.
Some commentators see the progress in government formation as too slow, considering the election was held three months ago and Mr Prayut had secured his premiership almost a month ago.
Initially, the delay was due to disagreements within the junta-aligned bloc on the allocation of portfolios.
But the onus of resolving of that was passed on to Mr Prayut as the prime minister, with stakeholders saying they trusted the general to make the decisions and keep promises.
Some questioned if Mr Prayut appeared to be dragging his heels over the matter, as he was enjoying the semi-power vacuum and the status quo.
Without a new government in place, Mr Prayut is both the legitimate elected prime minister and also the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
The Constitution prescribes that the coup-installed council would become defunct only after the new government takes office.
OPPOSITION READY FOR BATTLE
Anti-junta politicians were pushing Mr Prayut to get on with forming the Cabinet, citing the length of time since the March 24 election.
Future Forward Party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul on Tuesday pointed out that despite the three-month vacuum and the June 11 royal endorsement of Mr Prayut as premier, there was still no Cabinet to run the country.
"I call on General Prayut to do it quickly and not let the portfolio allocation to get in the way, affecting the administration," Mr Piyabutr said.
"The anti-junta opposition is now ready to do the job. We are already prepared to quiz them in Parliament, but we have no idea who will respond to questions."
Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai sent out a similar message, tweeting on Tuesday that the country was stuck on pause because the leader did not have the capacity to form a government.
While the government has yet to be properly formed, the opposition parties have used the time to prepare for grilling their rivals in Parliament.
In Wednesday's session, Pheu Thai spokesperson Laddawan Wongsriwong said the opposition would scrutinise the national reform plan over a lack of progress.
The controversial 20-year national strategy would also be addressed on Wednesday, she said.
The debate on Wednesday is expected to be heated and extensive. Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Jirayu Huangsap said it was because this would be the first debate in five years since the 2014 coup.
In a related development, scores of parliamentarians in both houses as well as ministerial candidates were scrutinised, most of them for allegedly holding shares in media companies.
The scrutiny follows the suspension of Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from the Lower House.
The opposition parties have levelled the same charges against their rival MPs and demanded that they face the same restrictions as Mr Thanathorn.
Initially, there were complaints that 41 MPs allegedly held shares in media companies.
The Constitution Court will decide on Wednesday whether or not to accept petitions.
It is also expected that the court will decide if, like Mr Thanathorn, the 41 accused would also be suspended from the House.