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Thai New Cabinet List Endorsed by King
    2008-09-24 18:24:46     Xinhua

The list of Thailand's new Cabinet led by recently-elected Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat got royal endorsement by King Bhumibol Adulyadej Wednesday.

The King signed the royal decree late Wednesday afternoon to endorse the new Cabinet line-up, which is composed of 36 members. Prime Minister Somchai, the country's 26th premier, is also Defence Minister, followed by a total of five Deputy Prime Ministers.

The new cabinet list feature a lot of old faces on Thailand's political arena, including those who have survived through legal troubles or credit crises under the previous short-lived Samak Sundaravej administration.

Observers believed it is due to the need for the new premier to keep balance between the six coalition parties that formed the previous and current government and between other political factions in regard to the ministerial portfolio "quotas".

76-year-old Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a former prime minister, army chief and supreme commander-in-chief, has been appointed as Deputy PM in charge of security affairs.

The other Deputy PMs include former justice minister Sompong Amornwiwat, former deputy prime minister Sanan Kachornprasart, former deputy public health minister Chavarat Charnvirakul and a new face Olarn Chaiprawat, a former leading banker and economics expert in the country who has been invited to join the government to help tackle the economic woes facing the country.

Deputy PM Sompong also serves as Foreign Minister.

The Finance Minister portfolio, formerly held by People Power Party (PPP) secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee, is taken by Suchart Thadathamrongvej, former deputy finance minister and also leader of a newly-established Puea Thai Party.

Surapong has disappeared from the new cabinet list, which is believed due to a legal case against him related to his role in the former Thaksin Shinawatra administration.

The Puea Thai Party was recently registered by Yaowapa Wongsawat, former executive of dissolved Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party, younger sister of Thaksin and wife of new Prime Minister Somchai.

The party was registered to serve as a shelter for members of current ruling party PPP to join in order to run for the next election, in the scenario that the PPP is dissolved because one of its executives and former House speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat was charged with electoral fraud during last December's general election.

Suchart Thadadamrongwej was elected on the party's first executives' meeting last Sunday as the Puea Thai party's leader.

Chalerm Yoobamrung, who was formerly dropped out of the interior minister post in a cabinet reshuffle in August amid criticism, has been recruited in to take the Public Health Minister portfolio.

Somchai's Cabinet was officially formed less than two months after a major cabinet reshuffle conducted by then prime minister Samak Sundaravej was completed, and less than eight months following the Samak-led government was sworn in.

Somchai, formerly a deputy PM under the Samak administration, was elected in the Parliament on Sept. 17 as Thailand's 26th Prime Minister after Samak was disqualified early this month with a court verdict that found him in breach of the constitution by hosting TV cooking shows while in office, amid continuous street protests since May to demand his resignation.

Somchai and the other 35 cabinet members will be granted an audience with the King on Thursday at the central beach resort town Hua Hin, where the King now resides, to be sworn in.

The new Cabinet is expected to have their first group photo, before heading to Hua Hin, at the Don Mueang military airport on the suburb of Bangkok, which is being refurnished to serve as a new venue for the administration head office, since the original Government House has been occupied by anti-government demonstrators led by the civilian group People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) since Aug. 26.

The new cabinet list has barely impressed opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit said there were hardly any new faces in the new cabinet and it would be difficult for it to gain confidence from the public which is looking to solutions for the country's prevailing problems.

"Many of the ministers were criticized earlier and they're still in this cabinet," said Abhisit, quoted by Thai News Agency.

The opposition leader warned that the new cabinet should not think of a honeymoon period with multiple problems facing the country now, including floods in widespread parts of the country, political turmoil and economic woes, said Abhisit.

He went on to throw a damp over public expectations for improvement of situation brought by the new prime minister, saying, "It's not going to happen."

 
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