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New PM's Secretary General

Suranand: man with the PM's ear

Suranand Vejjajiva is the first of the 111 former Thai Rak Thai executives to land a political post after their five-year ban ended on May 30.

Initially, he was among a group expected to win a Cabinet portfolio, but he was blocked by the Sudarat Keyuraphan faction, which sees Suranand as a betrayer because he defected after People Power Party, Thai Rak Thai's reincarnation, was dissolved.

So, his appointment as the Prime Minister's secretary general is a perfect solution.

Suranand came to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's aid during the flood crisis late last year. She was very satisfied with his work as he not only took care of details but also gave advice on how the new PM could improve her image.

No one had helped her with the problem. The former PM's secretary-general, Bantoon Supakvanit, only assisted her with documents and budget-related issues. That caused Bantoon to be moved to become a PM's adviser instead.

Since then, Yingluck's personality and her skill when being interviewed have developed nicely, thanks partly to Suranand.

The post of PM's secretary-general had been vacant since Bantoon "resigned" on February 28, leaving deputy secretary-general Thawat Boonfeung to fill that role.

When the PM's secretary-general's seat - seen as the "Little Prime Minister's post" - became vacant, Yingluck denied she was keeping the post for Suranand.

At the time, Suranand had already been working unofficially at Government House and appointed as the prime minister's personal spokesman.

Although Bantoon claimed health problems as his reason for stepping down, many sources said it was his due to his dissatisfaction with the promotion of Suranand.

Suranand was there with Yingluck for her first "live" episode of the weekly "Yingluck Government Meets the People" programme. It was broadcast from Waroros Market in Chiang Mai, Yingluck's hometown.

She gained more confidence with the programme, which was extended from half an hour to one hour.

Suranand was appointed her personal spokesman to be her voice on non-administration issues like the Four Seasons Hotel scandal, and to counter attacks by the opposition Democrat Party.

For many political observers, Suranand can be considered the "little prime minister" because he has obviously won the premier's trust and is helping her on many key issues, from work and public relations to her image.

He clarifies to the media what Yingluck meant after she gets criticised for making mistakes in remarks on many occasions.

Suranand has considerable expertise in dealing with the media. After the party was dissolved and his voting rights were revoked, he continued his work in the media. He was a columnist and a host for radio and TV shows including "The Commentator" on Voice TV.

He was the PM's Office minister in charge of state media during the second term of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. Earlier, he was spokesman for the Thai Rak Thai Party and the PM's deputy secretary-general.

The stain on his record was his formation of the Bangkok 50 group, which later joined the Puea Pandin Party along with many factions from Thai Rak Thai. He was seen as coming back to Pheu Thai only after Puea Pandin was not so successful and he saw a brighter future at Pheu Thai.

Nevertheless, Suranand is already holding office in the Thai Khu Fah Building, where the PM's office is located. All political agendas, domestic and foreign, must be screened by Suranand before reaching Yingluck.

Previously, another candidate for the PM's secretary-general post from House No 111 was Prommin Lertsuridej, who held the job during Thaksin's time in office. But the final say on Suranand came from Yingluck, who is now acquainted with him through their work together.

Suranand's appointment yesterday, therefore, was just to make his role as the PM's secretary-general official.


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