'Politics' not behind reshuffle
Interior Minister Aree Wongsearaya yesterday shrugged off the resignation of Samut Prakan governor Sukhumrat Saributr, saying it was the governor's own decision to leave.
Sukhumrat was one of 11 provincial governors reassigned as inspectors-general this week in a reshuffle of 60 high-ranking Interior Ministry officials. The move was widely seen as an attempt to demote those with close links to deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Aree said it was the duty of all provincial governors to follow instructions, including transfer orders, and positions were not granted for self-interest or personal privilege, but to serve the public.
He dismissed speculation that the governors of major northern and north-eastern provinces have been transferred because the provinces are political strongholds of the Thai Rak Thai Party, saying the criteria used in considering transfers were based on seniority and aimed at rotating the governors.
Most provincial governors among the 60 C-10 officials that were transferred are graduates of Thammasat University's Political Science Faculty, known as "Red Lions". Aree, on the other hand, is a graduate of Chulalongkorn University's Political Science Faculty and, as such, is known as a "Black Lion".
Interior Ministry permanent secretary Phongphayome Wasaphooti admitted the "abnormal political situation" had prompted transfers of governors in Thai Rak Thai-dominated provinces to "reduce the influences attached to their Thai Rak Thai-initiated CEO governorships".
"The transfers are aimed at enabling the [Surayud] government to function more easily," he said.
Asked to comment on the "Red-versus-Black Lions" matter, Phongphayome said Black Lions with adequate seniority had been sidelined for quite a long period.
"We now have to give them some fairness," he said.
Speaking of Sukhumrat's resignation, Phongphayome said the Samut Prakan governor may change his mind at the last moment. "I have not yet received his letter of resignation," he said.
The Police Commission, meanwhile approved a new position of Deputy National Police Commis-sioner on Security Affairs, to accommodate the return of Pol General Sombat Amornwiwat, director-general of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), to the Police.
Sombat is under fire for his leadership of the DSI, especially the slow-paced investigation into the disappearance of Muslim laywer Somchai Neelaphaijit. Pressure was also coming from the Council for National Security and the Justice Ministry, the DSI's own supervisory agency.
Sombat was not nominated for the new post yesterday, but is likely to be on the agenda for next week's meeting of the Police Commission.
The Commission also approved the request of Pol Lt-General Wanchai Srinualnad to resume his police career after earlier resigning to contest membership of the board of the National Counter Corruption Commission. Wanchai is a close friend of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.