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Aug 31, 9:43 AM EDT

Thai junta leader stacks Cabinet with military men

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BANGKOK (AP) -- The general who transitioned from Thailand's junta leader to prime minister has awarded key Cabinet posts to his trusted allies from the armed forces, the latest in a series of moves that critics say will prolong the military's grip on power.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha's government lineup, announced Sunday after being approved by the king, includes 11 active or retired senior military officials with no political experience who will serve as the ministers of justice, education, defense, transport, commerce and foreign affairs, among other posts.

Prayuth also named 21 civilians to the 32-member Cabinet, including former Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula, who will serve as a deputy prime minister.

Prayuth overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on May 22 and has promised to eventually restore democracy and hold elections as early as 2015 after the military oversees sweeping political reforms.

Critics say the reforms are designed to purge the ousted ruling party's influence and benefit an elite minority that has failed to win national elections for more than a decade.

Thailand has been deeply divided since 2006, when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - Yingluck's brother - was also toppled in a coup after being accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Prayuth has said the army had to intervene this year to halt half a year of protests that had paralyzed the government and triggered violence that left dozens of people dead.

He has called for national unity but made no attempt to form a unity Cabinet, with no political allies of the Shinawatra family included in the lineup.

Prayuth awarded portfolios to several senior soldiers said to have played key roles in both coups, including his predecessor and mentor, former army chief Gen. Anupong Phaochinda. Anupong will serve as the new interior minister.

Prayuth was named prime minister on Aug. 21 by a legislature hand-picked by the junta and dominated by active and retired duty officers. There was little doubt over the outcome since Prayuth was the only candidate.

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