Speculation has intensified that a Cabinet reshuffle is imminent. It would be the third Cabinet reshuffle since the Yingluck Shinawatra government came to power in August 2011.
Sources from the ruling Pheu Thai Party said the shake-up would take place early next month, following a long delay. The expected reshuffle is said to involve six or seven Cabinet positions.
Largely because it would involve positions held by Pheu Thai politicians, the long-expected change in the Cabinet line-up has been delayed for months at the suggestion of the party’s strategy team. Pheu Thai leaders and the strategists agreed that frequent changes in the Cabinet line-up would not bode well for the government’s stability. In the face of pressure from both inside and outside the party, it would be wise to keep the status quo, the thinking went.
However, as the confrontation with Pheu Thai’s political enemies – particularly the opposition Democrat Party – has become more serious, the party leadership reportedly sees the need to “reward their commanders”, particularly red-shirt leaders like Jatuporn Prompan.
The charismatic but controversial Jatuporn is once again tipped to become a Cabinet member, with the rumours this time suggesting he could be in line to become a deputy interior minister.
It is not the first time he has been tipped to receive a Cabinet or some other post. Before the Bangkok gubernatorial election in March, Jatuporn was said to be in line to become a deputy for Pheu Thai candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen if he was elected governor. However, Pongsapat was defeated by Democrat candidate Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
Jatuporn told the Nation News Agency earlier that he had no strong desire to become a government minister. He said that his study of the Buddha’s teachings when he was a temple boy taught him that “the more you desire [something], the less likely it is that you’ll get it”.
The red-shirt leader pointed to Phra Anon, who was among the last of Lord Buddha’s disciples to become an arahant (one who has attained enlightenment), despite his strong knowledge and understanding of dharma. “The only reason was that Phra Anon strongly desired to become an arahant. When this desire ended, he became an arahant.” Jatuporn said.
“In politics, the more you show your desire, the further you are from what you want. Whatever will be, will be. Whether I will become a Cabinet member or not, I am still Jatuporn Prompan,” he said.
That could explain why Jatuporn this time has been so calm regarding the speculation of him becoming a new Cabinet member. In the past he has often publicly rejected such rumours out of hand.
However, there are two other possible reasons that he has chosen not to react immediately. It could be that he was attempting to implicitly confirm the speculation. Or that he does not want to be embarrassed if he again fails to be appointed to the Cabinet.
Officially, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has sole power to reshuffle her Cabinet. But it is no secret that she does not have the final say within her party regarding this matter.
The final decision rests with her elder brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, believed to be Pheu Thai’s de-facto leader. Party MPs from different factions have been busy attempting to confirm the latest speculation about the Cabinet reshuffle. Some of them even plan to fly overseas to meet with “the big boss”, who is in self-exile overseas to avoid imprisonment at home for a corruption conviction. Among those most worried are the Cabinet members seen as likely to be replaced.
Before the last Cabinet shake-up in October, Thaksin promised Jatuporn a Cabinet seat during an address to a red-shirt gathering made via a video call from overseas. But as with some of his other promises to the red shirts, such as his vow to amend the Constitution and to help free red-shirt protesters jailed for arson attacks and other crimes, his promise to Jatuporn wasn’t kept.
The ex-leader stands to win much respect and loyalty from the red shirts and their leaders if he rewards Jatuporn with a Cabinet seat.