Many wonder about Yingluck's 'ice-cream gang'

national July 06, 2013 00:00

By Political Desk
The Nation

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Suranand responds to Chalerm's comments with pictures on Facebook

Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung dropped a bombshell on Thursday when he declared that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s “ice-cream gang” would end up dragging her down a ravine. 
This declaration gave rise to one simple question: Who is in this ice-cream gang and what influence do they have on her decisions?
This is not the first time that Chalerm has spoken about an influential gang. During the tenure of the late ex-PM Samak Sundarvej, he talked about a so-called gang of four who allegedly influenced the prime minister’s decisions. 
The members of this gang were Newin Chidchob, former leader of the Northeast faction in the then-ruling People Power Party; then-deputy PM and finance minister Surapong Suebwonglee; then-deputy PM Sahas Banthitkul; and then-PM’s secretary-general Thirapol Noplampha.
He alleged that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra was unable to control Samak because of this gang. 
During Abhisit Vejjajiva’s tenure, a so-called ice-cream gang 1 was allegedly present. Its members reportedly included then-PM’s Office minister Satit Wongnongtoey; former Democrat spokesman Thepthai Senpong; Democrat MP Sirichok Sopha; then-PM’s secretary-general Korbsak Sabhavasu; then-deputy PM’s secretary-general Issara Sunthornvut; and then-finance minister Korn Chatikavanij. 
It is widely believed that the second ice-cream gang includes the inner circle at Government House. They include PM’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva; the government spokesman team; Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong; Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong; and perhaps even Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre.
Now it is believed that the finger is really being pointed at Suranand. On Thursday, soon after Chalerm complained to the press about this so-called ice-cream gang, Suranand posted a photograph of himself, Government Spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi and other members of staff eating ice cream. The picture’s caption read that no “ice-cream gang” existed at Government House but that they all had good ties with Chalerm. This picture was taken while they were on a trip to Poland and Turkey with the prime minister. 
Separately, many Pheu Thai MPs and red-shirt leaders have been saying that Yingluck tends to have more faith in Suranand than anybody else. This is because every time they try to propose something to the PM, she tells them to follow the procedure – in other words, the PM’s secretary-general must first vet the issue. 
However, Suranand has gained the reputation of being choosy with what goes to the prime minister’s desk, and this has caused much dissatisfaction among MPs and red-shirt leaders. 
Also, it was reported that only a few people in the inner-circle knew about the Cabinet reshuffle, and they analysed the qualifications of each and every candidate before Yingluck made a final decision. Apparently, these members of the inner circle worked with Thaksin, his ex-wife Pojaman na Pombejra and his other sister Yaowapa Wongsawat to decide who was included in the new Cabinet line-up.  Party sources said that though Suranand has Pojaman’s backing, nobody had ever expected him to play such a large role in important issues and this is starting to make many people unhappy. 
So, apart from mounting problems in the country, Yingluck might also end up having to deal with internal conflicts caused by her most trusted aide. 

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