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Thailand's new king cuts size of council of advisers

Thailand's new King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun has named an 11-member council of advisers, bringing in three new officials including a former army chief and two representatives of the ruling junta.

The Privy Council is a reduction from the 16-member panel of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on October 13. Vajiralongkorn took the throne on December 1.

An official statement said he retained seven members from the old council, as well as the panel head Prem Tinsulanonda.

The new members are former army chief General Theerachai Nakvanich, justice minister General Paiboon Koomchaya and education minister General Dapong Ratanasuwan.

The two ministers are part of the ruling junta which took power in a 2014 coup by ousting prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's elected government.

Among those removed through the contraction of the council are the director of the crown property bureau, the former chief of the navy, an ex-deputy chief of the military supreme command, former officials, a diplomat and a businessman.

The seven advisers who were retained are a former bureaucrat, an ex-minister, a former prime minister, three ex-jurists and the former chief of the air force.

While the make-up of the new council does not shed much light on the 64-year-old king's thinking, the reappointment of Mr Prem as the privy council chief signals some continuity from Bhumibol's reign.

Mr Prem, one of Bhumibol's closest advisers, acted as the regent after the king's death during the period before Vajiralongkorn formally accepted the throne.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, but Bhumibol played an important role during his 70-year reign in stabilising the country through a time of enormous change that saw neighbouring monarchies collapse under the pressures of the Vietnam War.

He was especially known for his energy in development activities, doing hands-on inspections in remote rural areas. He calmed the country through several political crises.

Vajiralongkorn faces the challenges of a country in which democracy has struggled to take root amid frequent coups, ostensibly to control corruption and pull political factions away from their bitter battles.

AP

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