Politicians chide PM for military Cabinet

politics November 06, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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Both major parties argue that generals have failed country on economic issues

KEY FIGURES from the country’s two major political parties have urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to take bold steps in reshuffling his Cabinet to achieve better results, especially in tackling economic issues.

Charern Kanthawong, a former party-list MP of the Democrat Party, said Prayut should adopt the management style of former premier Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat by appointing highly competent persons to his new Cabinet, and minimise the number of former military men in charge of important ministries.

At present, 11 former members of the military and police top echelons hold key portfolios in the 35-member Prayut Cabinet, following the resignation of Labour Minister General Sirichai Distakul.

Charern said Prayut needed to be bold in reshuffling his Cabinet after spending three years at the helm with too many former military men serving as ministers. Citing ex-premier Sarit as an example, he said the former military strongman had chosen many competent persons from various fields to run his administration in the 1960s.

He said Prayut should follow Sarit’s style to tackle economic issues, which have seriously affected the well being of the grassroots population as the prices of agricultural produce have stayed at record lows for a long time.

“Prayut will gain more popularity if he appoints more capable civilians to his Cabinet,” he said, adding that the PM should also consider removing conditions that barred political parties from conducting activities so that they have the time to prepare for the upcoming election.

Ong-art Karmpaiboon, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, said the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle should be aimed at solving economic problems of low-income people and others in agriculture and small-scale trading, sectors where business was still not good.

Pol Lt-General Viroj Pao-in, the acting leader of Pheu Thai Party, shared the opinion that the economic well being of low-income people remained a major issue hence the Cabinet reshuffle should take it into consideration.

Viroj said the premier should also follow the political “road map to democracy” by removing conditions that barred political parties from various activities, since the pre-election process had already started. According to Viroj, most people and all political parties wanted to see the country return to democracy with the general election held soon, hence there should be no excuses to delay the process.

Regarding the Cabinet reshuffle, Prayut has said he is not sure if it would be done before the New Year. He was also non-committal if the reshuffle would be wide-ranging or just cover the labour portfolio left vacant by Sirichai’s resignation.

Critics have suggested that there are too many ex-military people in the Cabinet while most of the ministers’ performance was not outstanding. 

Besides Prayut himself, the defence portfolio is controlled by deputy premier General Prawit Wongsuwan, while General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong and Admiral Narong Pipatanasai are also deputy premiers.

In addition, General Udomdej Sitabut is deputy defence minister, while General Chatchai Sarikulya is agriculture minister. General Surasak Kanjanarat is natural resources and environment minister, ACM Anantaporn Kanjanarat is deputy energy minister, General Anupong Paochinda is interior minister, General Surachet Chaiwong is deputy education minister and Pol General Adul Sangsingkaew is social development and human security minister.