Fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra has reportedly expressed concern over the performance of the government's economic team and suggested there should be a reshuffle of portfolios.
According to close aides of Thaksin, who continues to play an influential role in Prime Minister Yingluck Shinwatra’s Cabinet, the ousted former premier is unhappy because most economic policies have been defensive over the past several months.
Kittirat Na Ranong is currently the deputy premier and finance minister, while Boonsong Teriyapirom is commerce minister and Mom Rajawong Pongsawad Sawadiwad is industry minister.
Dealing with the heavy economic toll from last year’s massive flooding disaster has been the major task of the economic ministers. As a result, they have not had time to focus on other crucial, longer-term issues such as Thailand’s strategy for membership of the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will become effective in 2015.
Shortly after winning the general election in 2011, the government was planning to set up a national AEC committee, grouping together all ministers and other top policy-makers concerned with the 10-country single market and production base. The idea behind the committee was to prepare the country ahead of 2015.
However, the first Yingluck Cabinet was preoccupied with many immediate political and economic issues, so there was no national AEC committee set up to coordinate the various ministries’ policies and strategies.
People close to Thaksin and the ruling Pheu Thai Party have indicated that both the commerce and industry portfolios will be changed. Suwat Liptapanlop, the ex-leader of the Chat Pattana Party, for example, is tipped to become the new industry minister, replacing Pongsawad.
Suwat is a veteran politician who worked under Thaksin while the latter was prime minister. However, Suwat and 110 other politicians were banned from engaging in politics or taking up political posts for five years after the Constitution Court ruled that they were guilty of election fraud. That ban was lifted on May 30, allowing Suwat and the others to return to politics.
In addition, Yukol Lim-laemthong, the former permanent secretary of agriculture, is tipped to become the new agriculture minister, replacing Thira Wongsamud. Overall there will be around 10 portfolio changes in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, which is expected to take place in July.
Sukumol Khun-pleum, the minister of culture and sports, said her Palang Chon Party would stay as a member of the Pheu-Thai-led coaliation government, but her husband, Sonthaya, will take up her portfolio in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.
Like Suwat, Sonthaya was among the 111 politicians who faced the five-year ban on taking up political posts.
Meanwhile, some ministers in the Pheu Thai quota may also lose their Cabinet jobs, including Suchart Thada-Thamrongwej, the education minister, and Yongyuth Wichaidith.
Due to the scandal over temple land acquired by the Alpine property developer, Yongyuth will likely lose the Interior Ministry portfolio, but may still remain as a deputy prime minister. Other veteran politicians who may be appointed to the new Cabinet include Pongthep Thep-kajana, a former justice minister, and Warathep Rattanakon, a former finance minister.
While Prime Minister Yingluck prefers to delay any Cabinet reshuffle to avoid negative consequences, it is unlikely that she can resist the growing pressure for portfolio changes, especially from her own brother, Thaksin, beyond the end of July.