The leader of last year's bloodless coup in Thailand has been installed as the country's deputy prime minister.
There is speculation that Gen Sonthi is eyeing the Thai premiership
Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who quit his military posts in recent weeks, will take charge of national security as one of three deputy PMs.
Some analysts believe Gen Sonthi intends to run for prime minister in elections scheduled for December - although he says he has not decided.
He helped to depose former leader Thaksin Shinawatra last September.
Gen Sonthi took up his new post on Tuesday, after resigning as army chief and head of the powerful Council for National Security (CNS).
Moving to allay suggestions that the military was determined to hold on to power, he told reporters: "I can't avoid this responsibility to tackle the problems the country is facing now.
"This new role will give me an opportunity to do real work, much more focused than the role as the chairman of the CNS."
Current Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who is also a retired general, has been under pressure to quit after five members of his cabinet resigned over a probe into their business interests.
But in a televised address on Tuesday, he vowed to guide the country through to the elections, due to take place on 23 December.
The military seized control of Thailand last year, accusing the twice-elected Mr Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power.
The coup leaders formed the seven-member CNS, whose agenda included a timetable for the restoration of a civilian government and elections.
The council also maintained substantial powers over the drafting of a new constitution.