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New Cabinet line-up hammered – PPP spokesman fraught over interference

September 26th, 2008 · No Comments

GREG LOWE in Bangkok

Thailand’s opposition party hammered the government’s new Cabinet line up, which was released yesterday. Appointments were made to satisfy internal power cliques not to serve the country and its people, it said.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat heads a six-party coalition government, led by his People Power Party (PPP), whose new Cabinet was royally endorsed on Wednesday and sworn in yesterday.
But the opposition Democrat Party hit out saying the line-up satisfies power cliques within the government, not solving the country’s pressing economic and political needs.
“This [Cabinet selection] is pure political horse-trading, it has nothing to do with the needs of the country or the people,” said Shadow Finance Minister and Democrat deputy party leader, Korn Chatikavanij.
Commerce Minister Chaiya Sasomsab, Industry Minister Pol-Gen Pracha Promnok, and Finance Minister Suchart Thadathamrongvej lacked the fundamental skills and experience necessary for their posts, and failed to generate enthusiasm from the business community, he said.
PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang said the Cabinet line-up was “not so good”, but that it suffered from the limitations of Thai politics quota system – where Cabinet positions are divvied up between the different parties and internal factions. However, no other party could do better he said.
“We have the quota system in the party, and you can see that selection is not based on the performance of individual members concerned, rather they represent different quotas,” he said. “They have to maintain the relationships with different quotas so the government can survive.
“There must be lobbying and hidden agendas in the line-up,” he said. “The prime minister is not entirely free to choose the ministers in his government, because he has to pick people who are nominated by different parties, or by different factions in the party.”
Mt Kuthep said he could not comment on reports that former-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawtra, who was deposed in a military coup two years ago and banned from politics, is pulling strings behind the scenes from his self-imposed exile in England. However, he said Thailand has entered a new phase of “destructive politics”, which started with the anti-democratic ouster of Mr Thaksin, but continues with the influence of power brokers, some of whom were banned from office when the PPP precursor Thai Rak Thai party was dissolved in 2007.

“Now we who are involved in politics [elected politicians] cannot play our role because of the influence of those people who are banned still dominate politics. Now we have begun another stage of destructive politics,” he said. “Everything is managed by someone who is not in the process of political parties.”
He called for critics to look forwards, and to judge the government on its ability to solve the country’s political and economic problems.
Political stability is essential in rebuilding the business community’s confidence, said an analyst.
“Stability is everything,” said David Tuck, head of research at Spectrum OSO Asia, a business intelligence consultancy. “Uncertainty over the likely length of tenure of ministers has a negative impact on the work of government – particularly in terms of the impact of frequent ministerial reshuffles on the creation and effective implementation of policy.
“The hope, therefore, will be that the new appointees spend a reasonable length of time in office.”
In other developments, deposed-Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who was sacked by the Constitutional Court earlier this month for charter violations, was sentenced to two years imprisonment in a defamation case, after losing his appeal yesterday.

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