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Jatuporn 'set for Cabinet'

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

Apiwan will also be appointed next month, party source says

Red-shirt leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Apiwan Wiriyachai are likely to be appointed ministers in the next Cabinet reshuffle expected early next month, according to a source from the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

Jatuporn, a key leader of the red shirts, is likely to become a deputy interior minister, replacing Pheu Thai MP Pracha Prasopdee, who is another red-shirt leader, according to the source.

"This next Cabinet reshuffle will involve six or seven positions, most of them are based on a quota system for the different regions," the source said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would have to allow Jatuporn, has attracted criticism and become a target for political attacks due to his aggressive leadership of the red shirts, to become a member of her Cabinet despite concern it would harm her popularity.

However, the source said it remained unclear what position Apiwan, formerly a deputy House speaker, would take.

"The battle is not over yet, and the government needs to reward the commanders or nobody will take the risks to lead the battle," the source said.

Another reshuffle would be the fourth change to the Yingluck Cabinet. The last occurred in October 2012.

The latest development comes amid a simmering row over a controversial draft law to be proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung that would provide general amnesty to all people involved in the political conflict in the recent years.

Another source in the ruling party said Pheu Thai was using Chalerm as a means to test public sentiment with his amnesty bill that would bring former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra home and return his assets of Bt46 billion.

Chalerm said earlier he would table the six-provision amnesty bill on May 23 - next Thursday - for consideration by Parliament, as he had mustered support from MPs.

The Pheu Thai source said yesterday the party had so far only resolved to support the amnesty bill pushed by Samut Prakan MP Worachai Hema and had not approved Chalerm's bill because it expected the bill would meet stiff public opposition.

"The party cannot stop Chalerm from tabling the bill, since the deputy PM wants to realise his promise of bringing Thaksin home. The government and the Pheu Thai Party have nothing to lose because the bill is initiated by Chalerm and the party has nothing to do with it,'' the source said.

Yingluck could delay or freeze Chalerm's bill if she believed the public strongly opposed it, the source said. "I believe the PM would not endorse the bill because the issue is nothing short of a political hot potato."

If public opposition is not strong, it is possible the Pheu Thai would help push Chalerm's bill. "It is like testing the waters. If the water current is strong, we stop - but if there's support - we can push for the bill's passage because Chalerm will be seen as a responsible person and the government can support him,'' the source said.

Deputy House Speaker Charoen Chankomol said that after Chalerm's bill had been tabled for deliberation, lawmakers would decide if it involved fiscal affairs. It that was the case, it would then need PM Yingluck's endorsement. If the PM endorses the bill, it could be tabled for deliberation at a later date.

Green Group coordinator Suriyasai Katasila said yesterday that the six-provision amnesty bill pushed by Chalerm was a political time-bomb that could bring about an unthinkable political change, because the essence of the bill was to whitewash and return seized assets to Thaksin.

He said Chalerm's claim that the bill would benefit all "political colours" was just an excuse to give Thaksin legitimacy, because only Thaksin had managed to escape the justice system.

"This bill is worse than coup orders because it is the law that closes judges' mouths and nullifies court verdicts and current pending trials. It is like taking a small detour to avoid a checkpoint and then returning to the main road,'' he said.

Suriyasai called on members of the public to file complaints against the police if any are found to have helped suspects who committed offences. Chalerm previously issued an order to 1,800 police stations across the country to act in support of the bill.

Democrat MP Ong-art Klampaiboon said the government was breaking a knife handle with its knee by pushing for an amnesty bill that only favours its political connections. He said the bill would face strong opposition and would not be approved by the House, because it was a serious threat to the legitimacy of the justice system.

Democrat MP Thepthai Senpong said he believed some red shirts would not agree with the bill because it also pardoned people who ordered the killing of red shirts. He said although the bill does not indicate that the Bt46 billion assets of Thaksin would be returned to him, Article 4 of the bill said all activities derived from the order of the Council of National Security would be null and void.

"Chalerm does not need to have six Articles in the bill - two is enough: Article one says Thaksin can do nothing wrong, and Article two says if he does, look at Article one,'' Thepthai said.

Pheu Thai MP Somkid Chueakong said the Pheu Thai Party would issue a resolution on whether to support the amnesty bill pushed by Chalerm. Chalerm had good intentions but his timing to push the bill was not right, he said, because the public was still against the move to return Thaksin his assets. The move to pardon all political colours may be seen as political collusion and some groups of red shirts may not accept it. "Chalerm would have to work hard to explain to all sides before he receives support,'' Somkid said.

Pheu Thai MP Weng Tochirakarn said he respected Chalerm for honouring his promise to bring Thaksin home, but he personally believed it was better to punish those who ordered the killing of innocent people.


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