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One year on, Thai gov't looks to secure its position

Publication Date : 25-07-2012


The political rumour mills are hard at work again, floating news of a Cabinet reshuffle as the government of Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of her appointment in August.

Politicians in the ruling Pheu Thai Party are positioning themselves and seeking opportunities to claim a new portfolio. Many have reportedly flown to see former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Hong Kong as they contest for positions that might arise in the new Cabinet.

They are using Thaksin's July 26 birthday as a pretext to call on the man who is the genuine big boss of the party.

Politicians with the potential for a Cabinet seat, and ministers who could possibly lose their positions, rushed to see Thaksin to ask the ex-PM to secure their careers.

Some political sources said the Cabinet reshuffle will not happen until National Police chief Priewpan Damapong retires from the position at the end of September. Priewpan, who is a brother of Thaksin's ex-wife, Khunying Potjaman Na Pombejra, has been tipped as a possible deputy prime minister overseeing anti-narcotics operations.

Another source said Yingluck did not want to shake up her Cabinet before the beginning of the new fiscal year in October. She also would like to see her economic plans and flood-prevention measures take shape before making any change in the government, the source said.

However, many political observers said Yingluck and even Thaksin were not the people to make the final decision in selecting who fills the portfolios. Nobody, these analysts say, can be a minister unless Khunying Potjaman says so.

"Even if you have pleased Prime Minister Yingluck and former prime minister Thaksin, as well as performed as a minister in the Cabinet, your position is never secure unless you have the approval of Khunying Potjaman," said a minister who declined to be named.

For Thaksin and Yingluck, the Cabinet reshuffle was not just simply to reward politicians jockeying for political positions, but to secure the whole Yingluck government, an observer said.

Thaksin has dispatched many of his key political men to help his younger sister Yingluck run the country efficiently. The former chief adviser to Thaksin's government, Pansak Vinyaratn, was appointed by the Cabinet as chief adviser to the Yingluck government early this month. Thaksin believes Pansak, with his creative skills, could help Yingluck produce attractive policies.

Political strategist Phumtham Wechayachai would be the Pheu Thai Party's director, replacing Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadi. Phumtham was a founder member of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party.

He was a key link for Thaksin to many other former student activists of the generation who played key roles in the political uprising in October 1973. Phumtham himself is a former student activist in that generation and former communist insurgent. He has a strong connection with many leaders of mass organisations, notably in the red-shirt group.

In the bureaucracy, Thaksin has already put his men in to make sure they help Yingluck run the system smoothly. Adul Saengsingkaew was picked up as new police chief after Priewpan. Adul has performed in the anti-narcotics campaign and protest control.

Former Thaksin close aide Atthakrit Tareechat was appointed as chief of the Government Lottery Office to make sure that Yingluck was able to obtain extra money from the lottery to implement many populist policies.

Paradon Patanathabutr, a relative of Thaksin's political mentor Preeda Patanathabutr, was picked up as deputy secretary general of the National Security Council (NSC) in June. He could be the next chief of the NSC.

Thaksin and Yingluck's real intention is not a Cabinet reshuffle but a change in the bureaucracy and agencies to secure the government.


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