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Who's who in Samak Cabinet?

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej finally gets his 35 Cabinet members yesterday. Amid criticism over their ability to be playing key roles in the new administration, they are captured into three categories displaying their origins.

The first group is made up of nominees of the 111 banned Thai Rak Thai Party executives. Loyalists of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra make up the second while the third consists of representatives of the coalition.

Nominee group

Somchai Wongsawat : Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister

All his life served as judge but his name involved in politics because of he is husband of Yaowapa, younger sister of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

He decided quitted from Justice Ministry permanent secretary after the coup.

The brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra entered to People Power party as deputy leader. He is said that a nominee of Thaksin and might take the premiership if Samak Sundaravej could not run the job. Yet, he always denied.

Earlier, he will receive the justice minister but it afraid of a criticism that he will cling to power because the ministry is involving the Thaksin cases.

He, therefore, takes the Education minister.

Somchai, 60, graduated in law from Thammasat University and a master degree in Public Administration from National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA). 

Virun Techapaibul: Deputy Commerce Minister

Virun, 65, earned a business administration degree from Hawthorn University, USA, and a master degree on corporate finance from Sasin Graduate School.

Born into an old established family, Virun started his career as chairman and director of companies run by the family. His high point was being president of the World Trade Centre, the developer of World Trade Centre which was later sold to Central Group due to huge losses. He was also a director of the State Railways of Thailand in 2003.

Virun joined politics in 1991 when he emerged as an MP before becoming a senator in 1992.

From 1997-2000, he joined several House committees dealing with economic issues including trade and the special economic zone in the South. In 2001, he was the advisor to then PM's Office Minister Krasae Chanawong and two years later advisor to then Finance Minister Varathep Ratanakorn.

Poonpirom Litapanlop: Energy Minister

Wife of seasoned politician Suwat Litapanlop who has been banned from politics for five years. Holds a master degree in chemistry from Kasetsart University and has served with the Army where she served as a lecturer until her early retirement in which she achieved the rank of Lieutenant General. She was also an advisor to the National Defence College.

Poonpirom entered politics in 2006 and a friend describes her as an energy conservationist nut.

Anongwan Thepsuthin: Natural Resources and Environment Minister

Anongwan Thepsuthin, 49, is the wife of former Wang Nam Yom faction leader Somsak Thepsuthin.

She was believed to be Somsak's "nominee" after he was banned from politics with the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party.

Wang Nam Yom members including Anongwan left TRT after the coup. They later formed the Matchima Thipataya party to run in the last election.

After serving as a teacher and education ministry official for 20 years, Anongwan entered politics in 2001 by running under the TRT banner in her hometown of Sukhothai and won the poll. She also ran for election in 2005 and was again victorious.

She had to guide Matchima because her husband and founder of the party, could not. She was promoted to be its secretary general to contest the December 23 election.

Anongwan led her party to tie up with PPP after the election results were announced.

She is set to become a minister in the Samak government, with the firm backing of Somsak, who is familiar with PPP's membership.

Matchima's former leader Prachai Leophairatana quit the party on December 4 when he submitted his resignation, although he later changed his mind.

When the Election Commission affirmed by ruling that Prachai was no longer party leader, it paved the way for Anongwan to nominate candidates for ministerial posts.

Chaovarat Chanweerakul: Deputy Health Minister

He is father or Anuthin Chanweerakul, one of 111 Thai Rak Thai Party executives who has been banned from politics. That is why Aunthin sends his father to become deputy health minister, the position he had helmed earlier.

However, Chaovarat is not new to politics. He once served as deputy finance minister in Chavalit government under the quota of Chart Pattana Party.

Wutthipong Chaisang: Science Minister

Wutthipong, 49, Chachoengsao MP, the younger brother of Chaturon Chaisang, the former Thai Rak Thai party caretaker who was banned from politics for five years. Chaturon pushed for his brother to get his first ministerial post.

Wutthipong entered politics by becoming a Constitution drafter representing Chachoengsao and joined the Constitution drafting panel in 1997. He fully entered politics after winning an MP seat in Chachoengsao under the banner of Thai Rak Thai Party. He was made secretary to the deputy industry minister.

Ranongrak Suwanchawee: Deputy Finance Minister

Ranongrak was elected as a senator from Nakhon Ratchasima but was not endorsed because of the coup.

Her husband Pairoj - a veteran politician and executive of the now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party who was banned from politics for five years - sent her and their son to contest the Korat seats under the Puea Pandin Party. Both won.

Ranongrak entered the Samak Cabinet as a deputy finance minister with the help of her husband Pairoj and the cooperation of Baan Rim Nam faction leader Suchart Tancharoen.

Now 51, she graduated in nursing from Mahidol University. 

Suphol Fongngam: Deputy Interior Minister

Suphol was a member of the inner circle of Wang Nam Yen faction leader Snoh Thienthong before move to become a close aide of Newin Chidchob, whose backing helped him secure a place in the Samak Cabinet.

Suphol has served several terms as an MP from Ubon Ratchathani but his new job as deputy interior minister will be his first time in the Cabinet.

The 45-year-old has bachelor's degree in law from Sripatum University and a master's degree in social environmental development from the National Institute of Development Administration. 

Teerachai Saenkaew: Deputy Agriculture Minister

A member of the Wang Nam Yom faction and an outspoken MP in ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's now defunct Thai Rak Thai party, Teerachai would defend his party leader against criticism from opponents. A Thaksin loyalist, he stayed with the Thai Rak Thai when his faction leader, Somsak Thepsuthin, jumped party last year's coup.

The 51-year-old politician from Udon Thani switched allegiance to the Newin group, a decision that paid off because he got the job of deputy agriculture minister with Newin's backing.

He has a master's degree in social administration from Thammasat University. 

Songsak Thongsri: Deputy Transport Minister

Fifty-year-old Songsak was a member of the Buriram province MP clique that is led by Newin Chidchob. He has been an MP six times and is now representing Newin, in the new cabinet.

Newin was banned from politics for five years by the juntaappointed Constitution Tribunal along with 110 other former Thai Rak Thai party executives.

Songsak holds a master degree in political science from Eastern Asia University and was assistant secretary to Minister of Finance and Minister of Education in the past.

Pongsakorn Annopporn: Deputy Education Minister

Pongsakorn, 47, was a Chart Pattana MP for Khon Kaen three times before moving to the Thai Rak Thai Party. He did not contest the December 23 election, nominating his wife Duangkae to run for the Khon Kaen seat instead.

Even though he is not an MP, he was backed to become deputy education minister by banned former Thai Rak Thai member Newin Chidchob. 

Pongsakorn has a master's degree in political science from Ramkhamhaeng University. 

Santi Promphat:  Transport Minister

Aged 56, Santi has been on the shortlist for the post since early January and was the only one who was not dropped from the list for the ministry.

He first entered politics a decade ago as MP for Petchaboon province under the then New Aspiration Party and is one of the major financiers for the party leader Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth.

Santi was advisor to the Interior and Transport Minister. As a major real estate tycoon with connections to Thaksin Shinawatra, he was entrusted by Thaksin due to his generous financial contribution and was given the responsibility to oversee MPs in the upper central region and some of the northeastern provinces.

Between 2001 to 2005, he failed to secure a ministerial post but the 19 September 2006 coup eventually gave him the opportunity with higher profile politicians from the TRT being banned from politics.

Sutha Chansaeng: Social Development and Human Security Minister

Sutha, 48, is a former Bangkok MP and close aide to Sudarat Keyuraphan. He has followed Sudarat since the Palang Dhamma Party, and she has backed him politically as deputy Bangkok group leader and secretarygeneral to the Finance minister.

Sutha was one of nine PPP candidates to win in Bangkok in the December 23 election, so it is no surprise Sudarat has endorsed him to take the Social Development and Human Security Ministry in order to maintain her support base in the capital.

Thaksin's loyalist

Mingkwan Saengsuwan: Deputy Premier and Commerce Minister,

Mingkwan is expected to execute what could be billed as an "improved" version of Thaksinstyled populist policies.

A former director of the Mass Communication Organisation

of Thailand and senior executive of Toyota Thailand, Mingkwan has a daunting task on his hands in managing the upward pressure on prices of necessity goods under the commerce ministry's supervision.

Mingkwan will also have to help exporters manage the

fallout of the US subprime loan crisis which could lead to a slower growth of Thai shipments to the huge American market later this year.

As deputy premier and commerce minister, he is also likely to play a key role in revitalising the tourism sector or promoting the plantation of agriculture crops, which could be used as raw materials for gasohol or biodiesel.

Earlier, he asserted that the tourism industry has the potential to generate as much as Bt1.5 trillion, or 4.2 times more than its present revenue of Bt350 billion per year, so the new government should turn its attention to tourism as a major source of revenue and as a driving force of the economy.

Mingkwan also wants Suvarnabhumi to be the country's only international airport and Don Muang airport to handle only domestic flights and serve as an air cargo or as a lowcost airline hub.

Calling "Thaksinomics" the original brand of populism, Mingkwan said a new and better version has been concocted and he claimed that there would be wider opportunities and more public funding for the grassroots population, the key supporters of the People Power Party in the Dec 23, 2007 election.

Chalerm Yoobumrung: Interior Minister

Chalerm has been a candidate for interior minister since he joined the People Power Party. The deal was allegedly closed after Chalerm flew to England to meet with deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman in Manchester in mid-2007.

Chalerm has been an ally of Thaksin since the ousted premier entered politics. His heyday was during the government of the late Prime Minister Chatchai Choonhavan. He was a minister and Chatchai's close aide who challenged defiant commanders of the armed forces.

Chalerm allegedly eavesdropped on their communication, as his boss suspected they were attempting to stage a coup. The rift led to the coup of February 1991, forcing Chalerm and his family to flee and live in exile for almost a year in Sweden and Denmark.

Chalerm was close to becoming a Cabinet member in the early years of PM Thaksin, if his youngest son had not been involved in a pub shooting that caused the death of a police officer. Chalerm refused to accept the post after the incident.

He returned to politics when he ran for Bangkok governor in 2004 - but lost to Democrat candidate Apirak Kosayodhin.

Choosak Sirinin: PM's Office Minister

A legal adviser to the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Choosak Sirinin was one of the people who stood up to fight against the party's dissolution. Even though Choosak seemed to keep a low profile, he proved to be reliable enough to be made legal adviser to the People Power Party and is now serving as the party's deputy secretarygeneral.

Before taking over as PM's office minister, Choosak was expected to become House Speaker, but instead he handed the post over to Yongyuth Tiyapairat.

Choosak, 59, earned a master's degree in Comparative Law from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, US.

Sompong Amornwiwat: Justice Minister

A severaltime MP from Chiang Mai, Sompong has previously headed several ministries, including labour, industry and the PM's Office Ministry.

After the Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved and its 111 executives banned from politics last May, the 66-year-old played the role of "big brother" by chairing a panel to screen new executives for the ad hoc Thai Rak Thai Group.

Sompong did not play a significant role in the party while Thaksin Shinawatra was in power, which turned out to be good for him because he was not banned from politics like the party's executives.

After the People Power Party was established as a base for former Thai Rak Thai members, Sompong volunteered to become deputy party leader and was temporarily appointed chairman of the government whip. 

Noppadon Pattama: Foreign Minister

More recently the Shinawatra family's legal adviser, Noppadon Pattama joined the Thai Rak Thai Party because the then Natural Resources and Environment minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat invited him to reform the law during the Thaksin administration.

Noppadon was assistant minister to Yongyuth for 89 days before the coup that ousted Thaksin.

Soon afterwards, he resurfaced to represent the Shinawatra clan. He became famous for using the phrase: "As the Shinawatra family's legal adviser" in published statements to defend Thaksin when the ex-PM was accused of wrongdoing.

A prominent case was when the Assets Examination Committee (AEC) moved to freeze Thaksin's assets worth Bt7.3 billion. He lashed out at the AEC every day.

He earned a master's degree in law at Thammasat Universityand a master's degree in bar council at Lincoln's Inn, Oxford University.

He was once appointed sec?retary to former Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai when Chuan was opposition leader.

Noppadon and Yongyuth were former Democrat Party MPs. 

Surapong Suebwonglee: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister

Surapong is a cofounder of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and a member of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's inner circle.

He was with Thaksin in New York on September 19, 2006, when the coup occurred, but kept a low profile after returning to Thailand the following month.

Surapong had appeared set to return to the private sector, but saw an opportunity to continue his political career after the People Power Party was formed. A former government spokesman and minister, he was made party secretary general.

Surapong was expected to take an important job if the party won the election, however, no one expected he would be made head of the Samak government's economic team.

Surapong was involved in implementation of the Bt30 national health scheme, and initially served as deputy Public Health Minister. But a conflict with key TRT members prompted Thaksin to make him Information and Communications Technology (ICT) minister.

After failing to secure a Cabinet seat in the Thaksin II administration, he decided to leave politics to help run a slimming centre business with his wife.

However, he returned to politics as government spokesman before Thaksin's government was overthrown by the coup.

Now 50, Surapong has a medical degree from Mahidol University. He is one of The "Tula (October) people" - a student involved in the October 1973 who had to flee to the jun?gle after the crackdown in October 1976.

He said recently he would phase out his business career in order to take up a fulltime role in the new government.

Jakrapob Penkair: PM's Office Minister and Government Spokesman

Jakrapob Penkair is better known as a celebrity, especially after his work as a presenter for the Apec summit hosted in Thailand in 2003.

His performance during Apec impressed thenprime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who asked Jakrapob to serve as a government spokesperson.

He has since developed a reputation for being outspoken, mainly because he always stood up to speak to journalists, sometimes even on behalf of other government officials.

At one point, Thaksin even said his spokesman had spoken out of turn. This comment came after Jakrapob publicly declared that the European Union had agreed to restore preferential tariffs for Thai shrimp exports in exchange for the purchase of an Airbus aircraft.

Jakrapob ran in the 20052006 elections but failed. However, Thaksin appointed him as deputy secretary-general to prime minister in 2006.

When the Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved, he and other loyal aides of Thaksin set up a cableTV station called Public Television (PTV) to broadcast their sentiment against the junta.

Later, PTV members rallied against the Council for National Security (CNS), and created the Democracy Alliance Against Dictatorship group.

Jakrapob and other anticoup leaders were detained for two weeks over charges of leading an unauthorised rally outside the residence of Privy Council Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, which erupted into a riot last July.

Jakrapob, 41, has a bachelor's degree in political science from Chulalongkorn University, and a master's from John Hopkins University in the US.

After completing his education, he started his career with the Charoen Pokphand (CP) group, before resigning to serve as an official diplomat and then a television host.

Party representatives

Sompat Kaewpichit: Deputy Agriculture Minister

Sompat, 46, has a degree in political science from Thammasat University and an MBA in management from the US.

He entered politics under the Chart Thai banner and won in three elections.

Sompat, who served secretary to the agriculture minister in 1998, was chosen to become deputy agriculture minister after Kamol Jiraphanwanitch decided not to take the position due to possible violation of the conflict of interest law.

Sanan Kachornprasart: Deputy Prime Minister

Sanan decided to leave the Mahachon Party for Chart Thai a few months before the December 23 election.

His heyday was when he was secretarygeneral of the Democrat Party in the 1990s. He played a key role in coordinating with other political factions to back Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai to become the prime minister for two terms.

In 1997, after Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned following the economic crisis, Sanan succeeded in lobbying 12 MPs of the Prachakorn Thai Party under Samak Sundaravej to switch sides to support Chuan to be the new premier.

However, Sanan was banned from assuming political posts for five years after the Constitution Court in 2000 found him guilty of hiding his assets. He quit the posts of interior minister and the party's secretarygeneral.

Despite his departure, he still had influence in the Democrat Party. He backed Banyat Bantadtan to become the Democrat leader, defeating Abhisit Vejjajiva.

A row with the Abhisit faction forced him to quit the party again after a short return as the party's director for election campaigns. He decided to launch the Mahachon Party in mid-2004 to run the 2005 poll but won just two of the 500 MP seats.

Suwit Khunkitti: Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister

Suwit is a former minister and executive of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party. He was not among the banned TRT executives because he quit the post in 2005, after he resigned as the information and communications technology minister, due to health reasons.

In mid-2007, following the coup of September 19, 2006, Suwit joined banned TRT member Surakiart Sathirathai to form the Puea Pandin Party. The new political group, allegedly having close ties with the coupmakers, aimed to undermine the stronghold of the People Power Party under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra's shadow in the North and Northeast.

But the party won only 24 seats. Moreover, Suwit failed to win a seat in his hometown of Khon Kaen. He decided to join the PPP-led coalition as the only way to get into government.

Uraiwan Thienthong: Labour Minister

Uraiwan is a former labour and culture minister in the government of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra. She is the wife of influential Snoh Thienthong, leader of the Pracharaj Party.

She is recognised as a nominee of Snoh, who did not want to take the post himself after he had a row with Thaksin in the now disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party.

Banyin Tangphakorn: Deputy Commerce Minister

A close aide to Somsak Thepsuthin and deputy leader for the Matchima Thipataya Party, Banyin Tangphakorn served in the police force before entering politics in 2001 as a Thai Rak Thai member.

He won in Nakhon Sawan during the 2001 elections and again in 2005.

Banyin won the post of deputy commerce minister by pure luck this time because the main contender Sunthorn Wilawan, another Matchima Thaipataya party member, ended up being issued a red card.

Banyin, 46, completed his master's degree in Business Administration from Naresuan University. 

Man Pattanotai: Information and Communication Technology Minister

The deputy Puea Pan Din Party leader rose to the position with the support of the party's senior advisor Vattana Asavahem of whom Man has been a longtime close aid.

Man is 67-years-old and graduated in law at Thammasat University. He also gained an MA in International Relations and an PhD in Political Science from the USA. He has many years of political experience having served as a Samutprakarn MP four times.

Anusorn Wongwan: Culture Minister

Phrae MP Anusorn , 56, has served as a deputy minister for industry, interior and labour.

He is a son of the late Samakkhi Tham Party (Unity Party) leader Narong Wongwan.

Anusorn earned a master's degree in engineering in the US in 1974.

Sahat Banditkul: Deputy Prime Minister

The 57-year-old former deputy Bangkok governor is a close relative of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's wife, Khunying Surat.

Sahat has served as an adviser to Samak since he was transport minister in a Prem government. Samak always brought Sahat into any ministry he headed, and when he rose to become Bangkok governor, Sahat was made first deputy governor.

Sithichai Kowsurat: Deputy Interior minister

Graduated with bachelor degree from Ramkhamhaeng University, Sithichait, 48, was in local politics being Ubon Ratchathani provincial councilor before becoming Ubon Ratchathani MP in 1995. Sithichai is the brain child of Preecha Laohapongchana, one of Puea Pandin party leaders, who is among 111 Thai Rak Thai Party executives banned from politics.

Sithichai was assistant secretary to industry minister and finance minister. He is a key suspect in the case that the People Power Party's political registrar was accused of falsifying his name to apply as PPP member. If investigators find grounds, the party could be dissolved.

Anurak Jureemas: Deputy Transport Minister

Former Roi Et MP for several times and deputy Chart Thai party leader. He is a close aide of Chart Thai' leader Banharn Silapaarcha. He served as minister because of Banharn.

In the Samak cabinet under quota of Chart Thai, Anurak was expected to become a minister definitely. 

The 47-year-old used to be deputy Industry minister, deputy Agriculture minister, Social Development and Human Security minister and Culture minister.

Anurak completed a bachelor degree in Law from Ramkhamhaeng University.

Chaiya Sasomsap: Public Health Minister

Now 55, he was MP since 1995 and ever took deputy Transport minister in 2001. Newin Chidchob has backed his ministerial.

His family is known as Nakhon Pathom's godfather because the Sasomsap family members are politicians and ruled the election's Nakhom Pathom seats for a long time.

Boonlue Prasertsopha: Education Minister

Aged 40 and a twotime MP of Ratchaburi province. He was awarded an outstanding MP by the parliament for having never failed to attend a house session for a period of four years.

This caught the eyes of Thaksin and Boonlue was promoted to assistant secretary to the Interior Minister.

Boonlue graduated from Mahidhol University with a masters degree in Appropriate technology for Resources Development. Before entering politics he was a journalist for Khao Sod and Baan Muang newspapers.

Somsak Prissanananthakul: Agriculture Minister

Somsak, 57, and righthand man of Chart Thai Party leader Banharn Silapaarcha.

Chart Thai Party deputy leader Somsak Prissanananthakul received a Bachelor's Degree from Ramkhamhaeng University's Faculty of Political Sciences and Master Degree from Thammasat University's Faculty of Political Sciences. He had been an MP of Ang Thong Province under the banner of Chart Thai Party for eight terms.

In 1995, Banharn appointed him to the post of government spokesman, the job that catapulted him into the media spotlight.

During the Chuan 2 administration, Somsak was appointed education minister in 1999 and rose to become the first deputy House speaker in 2001. He made his name by carrying out his role with neutrality.

A highly-trusted aide of Banharn, Somsak can speak on behalf of Banharn on every occasion whenever the party or Banharn himself is hit by adverse publicity.

Pradit Pattaraprasit: Deputy Finance Minister,

Pradit, 53 was in the hotel and kitchenware business before joining the Democrat Party.

Then Democrat Party secretary-general Sanan Kachornprasart persuaded him to run as Phichit MP candidate under the banner of the Democrat Party in 1995, which he won  and again in the following year. He was appointed chairman for the House committee on sports.

In 1997, when former prime minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh stepped down and the Democrats led the coalition government, Pradit was appointed deputy transport minister.

In 1999, when Sanan was banned from politics for five years for declaring false assets to the National Counter Corruption Commission, Pradit was appointed as the party caretaker secretary-general. Sanan tried to angle Pradit into his place but failed because former Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai appointed former interior ministry permanent secretary Aant Anantakul to the post.

In 2005, the Democrats saw a change of the party management, Banyat Bantadtan was voted as the new party leader and Pradit was appointed the party secretarygeneral. He came up with then "hot" debt moratorium policy under the name "Itaen Plee Cheep" to compete with the Thai Rak Thai Party in Isaan.

After the September 2007 coup, Pradit made headlines again after the left the Democrats in the middle of election campaign and established a new political group  Ruam Jai Thai which later merged with Suwat Liptapanlop's group and established the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party to compete in the December 23 election. Pradit became the party secretary-general.

Weerasak Kowsurat: Tourism and Sports Minister

Weerasak, 43, he was regarded as the person who helped upgrade the Chart Thai Party's image to be more modern, with his master's law degree from Harvard Law School in the US. Chart Thai had always been looked local to the public.

Weerasak has taken over the responsibility of the party's protocol and legal affairs and not shy in offering his vision.

In 19951996 when Banharn was appointed PM, Weerasak was made deputy PM secretary-general and in 2002-2003, was appointed advisor to the social development and human security minister during Thaksin I government.


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