Chumpol's death could lead to wider Cabinet reshuffle
The death of Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silpa-archa has renewed a fight among coalition partners for his coveted tourism and sport Cabinet post and is also likely to lead to a reshuffle of some ministers.Both the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the coalition Palang Chon Party have been keen to take the tourism position from Chart Thai Pattana while Chumpol's brother Banharn wants to keep the lucrative post with his party.
Banharn, who is Chart Thai Pattana's patriarch, has decided on a successor to replace his late brother, a party source said yesterday. It was likely that the successor would be an outsider because Banharn has only a few close and trusted allies. He and the former members of the now-defunct Chart Thai Party are banned from politics for five years.
Culture Minister Sonthaya Kunplome from the Palang Chon Party is said to be unhappy with his current post. He reportedly met former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra over the New Year holiday to lobby for the tourism and sport seat.
Key Pheu Thai members and coalition partners also met Thaksin in London last week, sources said.
Banharn's party gained the upper hand when it joined the coalition in exchange for better ministerial quotas than other parties. The tourism and sport post has been held by Banharn's people under three previous administrations linked to Thaksin.
But now the situation has changed. Yingluck Shinawatra's government is more stable and other small and medium parties like Bhum Jai Thai of Anutin Charnvirakul and its Matchima faction led by Somsak Thepsuthin are prepared to support and join the Pheu Thai-led government. So the support of the Chart Thai Pattana and Palang Chon parties is less crucial.
"If we can really take the post back from Banharn, why do we have to give it to Sonthaya? Isn't it better to keep it with us? We always want to supervise the ministry because it can generate high revenue to the country," a source from Pheu Thai said.
The source said Pheu Thai may ask Banharn to swap the tourism post for labour or education.
Another source from Pheu Thai also revealed that the party is considering reshuffling some ministers in the economic posts, with Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom among those targeted. Deputy Interior Minister Chatt Kuldiloke is likely to go over his failure to perform in a no-confidence debate last November, the source said. Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk could be targeted as well.
The reshuffle will likely occur after the Constitution Court ruling on February 1 over whether Prime Minister's Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn is qualified to take the Cabinet post, the source said. Varathep was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail term in September 2009 over the lottery scandal in connection with his role as deputy finance minister in the Thaksin government.