Oct 25, 2012

Thailand - Line-up for Thai Cabinet reshuffle due 'this week'

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A source said Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the PM's secretary-general Suranan Vejjajiva had summoned current ministers who are to be transferred to new positions, as well as the new faces to be appointed to the Cabinet, to a meeting at the Thai Kufah Building.

The new and reshuffled members of the Cabinet were told to submit forms stating their work records, the source said.

According to the source, those who turned up to sign the curriculum vitae forms included Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadi; Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap; Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul; Deputy Transport Minister Chatt Kuldiloke and PM's Office Minister Woravat Auapinyakul.

Defence Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat met Yingluck in the morning, while Sermsak Pongpanit, a former Thai Rak Thai executive, also went to Government House.

The source said the forms did not state the positions to which the officials would be appointed; the prime minister and Suranan told them simply to state their CVs.

The source said the prime minister asked the Pheu Thai Party's coalition partners to submit their lists of changes to their Cabinet-seat quotas to Suranan by 4pm yesterday so that Cabinet Secretary-General Ampon Kittiampon could check their qualifications.

The Palang Chon Party submitted Sonthaya Kunplome's working history to Suranan, according to the source, who added that Sonthaya would replace his wife, Sukumol Kunplome, as culture minister.

The Chart Thai Pattana Party would definitely replace its agriculture minister, Theera Wongasamut, who wants to step down for health reasons, the source said. Theera is expected to be replaced by Yukol Limlaemthong, former permanent secretary for agriculture.

The source said Yingluck wants to submit the list of reshuffled Cabinet seats for a Royal command before she embarks on a series of foreign trips next month.

A well-informed source said the reshuffle would mostly involve deputy ministers who have been in office for a year, with only a few members of "Team A", or former Thai Rak Thai executives, being brought into the Yingluck 3 Cabinet.

"Only a few former Thai Rak Thai executives will join the new Cabinet. The reshuffle will mostly involve deputy ministers who have been in office for a year. They will take a rest so that other senior party members can take a turn," the source said.

According to the source, former Thai Rak Thai executives who have a chance to be in the Cabinet are Pongthep Thepkanchana, Pongsak Raktapongpaisal, Warathep Ratanakorn and Chaturon Chaisaeng.

Chaturon and Pongthep are seen as likely to fill the Education and Justice portfolios, though it is not yet clear who would take which.

Certain economic ministers previously seen as vulnerable due to blunders or problems with their work are seen as likely to survive. One of these, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, is expected to keep the Finance portfolio, but to be replaced as deputy premier in charge of economic affairs by Pongsak, who is a key candidate to become the new energy minister. His main rival for the Energy portfolio is Prasert Boonsamphan, former chief executive of petroleum giant PTT Plc.

However, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom may lose his seat to Warathep. Boonsong has been criticised over the rice-pledging scheme but is favoured by Yaowapha Wongsawat, a sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the leader of a powerful faction in Pheu Thai.

The highlight of the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle is expected to be the appointment of Jatuporn Promphan, a red-shirt leader, as promised by big boss Thaksin.

Earlier, Yingluck reportedly rejected her brother's request to bring in Jatuporn on grounds that she did not want to increase the number of red-shirt leaders in the Cabinet for fear that the government's image would be affected. She reportedly feared that the red-shirt leaders would draw attacks on the Cabinet, so she tried to resist the request of her brother to give a seat to Jatuporn.

She tried to convince red-shirt leaders to make do with one seat, by having Jatuporn talk to Natthawut Saikua as to who should be a minister. Natthawut was eventually named deputy agriculture minister.

However, Thaksin has reportedly promised Jatuporn that he would be made a deputy interior minister.

Ultimately, Yingluck has had to yield to Thaksin and give the position to Jatuporn because her government cannot afford to infuriate the red-shirt movement. Yingluck realises that her government needs the support of red-shirt supporters on several issues. In particular, their backing is needed for holding public discussions over the national reconciliation bill. These will be organised by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung. The discussions will start in Nakhon Ratchasima, which is a political base of Pheu Thai.

Red-shirt support is also needed to push for passage of the charter amendment bill, whose third reading is pending. Thaksin has reportedly engineered a consensus with other coalition partners that it is about time to resume the third reading of the bill.

Among the expected new faces in the Cabinet will be former police chief Pol General Priewpan Damapong, who is expected to become a deputy prime minister or interior minister.

The Cabinet reshuffle will also be linked to the selection of the new Pheu Thai leader. It has been speculated that the new party chief will have at least one Cabinet seat, as did the former leader, Yongyuth Wichaidit.

With support from Thaksin's ex-wife, Khunying Pojaman na Pombejra, it is expected that Transport Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan will become the next Pheu Thai leader, while retaining his portfolio. Earlier, it was speculated that he would be removed from the Cabinet.

Piyanart Srivalo

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