Thursday, January 19, 2012

Clock ticking for cabinet Thaksin gives intake six months to prove itself

The next cabinet reshuffle could be just months away with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra reportedly giving the Yingluck cabinet a six-month deadline to deliver.
Eye of the lioness
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra paints an eye on a mask of a lion’s head during a celebration to mark Chinese New Year at the Chinese embassy in Bangkok yesterday. China’s ambassador to Thailand, Guan Mu, left, received the prime minister. Chinese New Year starts on Monday. THITI WANNAMONTHA
Newly appointed deputy education minister Sakda Khongpetch yesterday said Thaksin has asked him to pass on a message to his fellow cabinet members to shape up and deliver results in six months.
The cabinet reshuffle, comprising 10 new appointments and six posts swapped, has received royal endorsement. The new line-up had no surprises _ comprising exactly what had been widely speculated in the media.
See also: New Deputy PM shrugs off US blacklisting
Mr Sakda said he met Thaksin in Hong Kong on Tuesday and had a 40-minute talk with the former prime minister.
"He asked me to tell other ministers to focus. Efficiency has yet to be achieved. Every ministry is expected to show results in six months," he said.
A Pheu Thai source said Thaksin hinted the next shake-up would possibly take place after June _ after 111 former executives of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party finish serving their five-year political ban.
The changes are expected to be as sweeping as those made yesterday and may see the induction of two red shirt co-leaders Apiwan Wiriyachai and Jatuporn Prompan.
"Thaksin also gives his assurances to Pheu Thai MPs and cabinet minister candidates that their time will come. The current reshuffle shows he is true to his promises," said the source.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday denied her brother had a hand in the cabinet reshuffle.
She said she would explain her decisions after the new cabinet line-up is announced officially.
"The principle is to ensure flexibility and suitability," she said.
Outgoing cabinet ministers Wednesday took the news in their stride.
Pornsak Charoenprasert, who is replaced by red shirt co-leader Natthawut Saikua as deputy agriculture minister, said it was a job rotation and he had anticipated it.
Pheu Thai is a large party with many MPs and there are about 30 cabinet seats to allocate.
"I'm stepping down because my term is completed, not because of corruption. They [ministerial positions] are for sharing and I shouldn't waste my thoughts on that," he said.
Outgoing PM's Office Minister Krissana Seehalak said she was happy to step down from her post.
"I was so exhausted and felt uncomfortable," said Ms Krissana who might now work for newly appointed deputy finance minister Tanusak Lek-uthai.
Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, who doubles as the finance minister, yesterday admitted that tough tasks lie ahead.
He said he would do his best to push for the government's economic policy, especially management of public debt and raising funds for water management and flood prevention projects.
He assured the reshuffle involving economic ministers would not affect investor confidence.
Col Apiwan, a Pheu Thai list MP, dismissed criticism the cabinet appointments were to repay political favours.
"If that were the case, more red shirts would have been appointed to the cabinet," he said.
He said he missed out on a post probably because he was not suitable.
Mr Jatuporn said he respected the prime minister's decision and did not mind that he was not made a cabinet minister, adding that he would not waste his time fighting with others over a cabinet seat. "Our mission is to fight for democracy and the constitution and freedom for the detained red shirts, not a seat," he said.
Supreme Commander Thanasak Patimapakorn yesterday played down much-anticipated tensions following the appointment of Sukumpol Suwanatat as the defence minister.
He said the military has no problem with the government's choice of a new defence minister and it is their job to serve the government policy.
Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha declined to comment while air force chief Itthiporn Supawong welcomed the appointment of ACM Sukumpol.
ACM Sukumpol was once tipped to take the air force's top post but he was overlooked after the 2006 coup due to his close connections with Thaksin.
Democrat and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the party was interested in the appointment of Mr Arak as the energy minister.
He said that in addition to how the government will proceed with its energy policies, the Democrats will be closely monitoring Thaksin's known interest in the energy sector in neighbouring countries and the roles of the energy minister and the foreign minister.