The impact of Thailand's reshuffle of 16 cabinet posts Wednesday is yet to play out, but analysts expect the move to enhance unity under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and improve efficiency in the government.
The new cabinet was announced Wednesday afternoon after being endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In the reshuffle, six ministers moved to new posts while 10 others were replaced by new faces.
The reshuffle of a cabinet only five months in office showed Yingluck's dissatisfaction with its performance, especially poor handling of the flood that inundated parts of Bangkok late last year. Different voices from the government caused chaos in flood relief and repeatedly embarrassed the prime minister.
Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, which is in charge of Thailand's irrigation system, had been under fire for inability to timely divert and drain the flood water. Some officials in the ministry reportedly kept flood away from some parts of the country at the sacrifice of other areas to court their voters.
The prime minister has firmed up control in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives by appointing red shirt leader Natthawut Saikua, one of the major campaigners that helped Yingluck win last year's election, as deputy minister. Analysts also expect Natthawut to be a strong arm to push the government's vast reconstruction and water management projects.
For a similar reason, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Kittiratt Na-Ranong was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, to facilitate the financing of huge post- flood projects, most notably transferring 1.14 trillion baht (38 billion U.S. dollars) of government debt from the 1997 economic crisis to the central bank so that the government can get new loans.
Lack of unity in the previous cabinet was highlighted last November when a confidential amnesty draft allegedly designed to seek royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother and ex-Prime Minister, was leaked to the media by several unnamed sources from the cabinet.
The draft stirred public outcry and prompted Thaksin to announce to the public that he would not seek royal pardon. Yingluck reportedly chided some cabinet members for failing to keep secrets.
Despite criticism on the government, the prime minister continues to enjoy strong support with an honest and hardworking image. "Yingluck is sincere. The people like her," said Chanetwallop Khumthong, a professor at Chulalongkorn University.
Politics is not one-man's show and a leader needs a team of principled people to make the right decisions, said Thida Thawornseth, a red-shirt leader, "She (Yingluck) has been called a 'parrot premier', among other things. That's not fair. It's necessary to have a good strategic team to back her."
Somjai Phagaphasvivat, political analyst at Thammasat University, said the reshuffle would help political novice Yingluck to sort out the unity problems in her cabinet.
However, the new cabinet may not have enough time to prove itself because another reshuffle is expected within months as 111 former executive members of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, the former ruling party founded and led by Thaksin, return to politics in May after a five-year ban for election fraud, he added.
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