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– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

PM Prayuth turns to military, ex-bureaucrats for Cabinet
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s Cabinet – with nearly half the ministers either active or retired military – won royal endorsement yesterday.

The interim government led by Prime Minister Prayuth has 33 ministers, including the PM, for 35 portfolios. Nine of them are military officers, while another three are former military personnel. All are close to Prayuth.

In addition to military officers, who Prayuth trusts, the Cabinet has many retired civil servants, which signifies Prayuth’s faith in bureaucrats to take a leading role rather than businessmen, who have lost influence due to connections with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a source said.

Prayuth reportedly learnt a lesson from the 2006 power seizure, which saw many businessmen in the post-coup Surayud Chulanont Cabinet.

The generals in the latest Cabinet are expected to ensure that the PM’s roadmap is not disrupted.

Prayuth’s former superior General Prawit Wongsuwan was appointed deputy PM and Defence Minister, while another of his ex-superiors, General Anupong Paochinda, was named Interior Minister.

Prawit was chosen because of his connection with Thaksin, which could be fruitful when it comes to efforts to achieve reconciliation, with legal consequences against the fugitive continuing in the normal justice process, the source said.

Four of the premier’s former classmates have portfolios. General Dapong Ratanasuwan was appointed Natural Resources and Environment Minister, General Tanasak Patimapragorn is deputy PM and Foreign Minister, Gen Chatchai Sarikalya was named Commerce Minister, and permanent secretary for defence General Surasak Kanjanarat is the Labour Minister.

Prayuth’s ‘junior’ friends from pre-cadet school days, Navy chief ADM Narong Pipatanasai and Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, were appointed Education Minister and Transport Minister respectively.

The premier’s subordinates from the armed forces who will help him administer the country include deputy Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, the Deputy Defence Minister, and assistant Army chief General Paiboon Koomchaya, the Justice Minister.

General Udomdej, potentially the successor to Prayuth as the Army commander, is expected to utilise his potential to deal with pro-Thaksin military officers who may be “active”.

Prayuth reportedly interviewed all candidates for ministerial posts before making his final decision, especially former officials who performed well after the junta seized the power on May 22, the source said.

Most ministers were approached by Prayuth himself. For example, he phoned National Intelligence Agency director Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana and asked him to join the Cabinet as one of the two PM’s Office Ministers, a source said.

On Friday, Prayuth defended the presence of military figures in the Cabinet, saying it was necessary to deal with certain security issues. He acknowledged the criticism, but said he needed to trust the people around him to work efficiently.

There are only two women in Cabinet posts. They are ex-deputy permanent secretary for the Commerce Ministry Apiradi Tantraporn, who was appointed deputy Commerce Minister, and Toshiba Thailand chairwoman Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Tourism and Sports Minister.

His Majesty issued the royal command, countersigned by Prayuth, to appoint the Cabinet on Saturday. It was announced in the Royal Gazette yesterday.

— Phuket Gazette Editors