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Cabinet reshuffle

Thaksin's Hong Kong visit 'not linked'

Noppadon insists former PM will not influence choice of party leader

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Hong Kong this weekend has nothing to do with the Cabinet reshuffle or the selection of a new Pheu Thai Party leader, the ex-PM's legal adviser told the media yesterday.

"Thaksin is just visiting to meet with his friends, including MPs and ministers, but that does not mean he is linked to the Cabinet line-up," Noppadon Pattama said.

Thaksin is expected to be in Hong Kong over the weekend before heading to London.

Noppadon said the former prime minister had been told about Yongyuth Wichaidit vacating his seat in the House of Representatives as well as quitting the post of party leader.

"I understand that Thaksin has voiced regrets about Yongyuth's exit, but he has also commended him for showing his spirit to put the party's interests before his personal problems," he said.

The lawyer reiterated that Thaksin would not exert any influence in the naming of the new Pheu Thai leader. He added that the party's executive board was scheduled to meet on Monday to decide which deputy leader should take over as caretaker pending the appointment of Yongyuth's successor in a month or two.

He said veterans from the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party, as well as Pheu Thai executives and outsiders, would be given equal opportunities for the post. Noppadon explained that the new leader should be accepted within the ranks and possess administrative skills, adding that politicking abilities was not a job requirement.

"It is not necessary that the party leader be a politician, because Pheu Thai operates under given policies," he said.

As for whether retired national police chief Priewpan Damapong would be considered, he said he had not heard his name being brought up.

In relation to the Cabinet reshuffle, he said he did not think the rearranging of posts would take place this month. He added that changes should happen after the censure debate, which has tentatively been scheduled for next month, is completed.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said Yongyuth should have waited to clear his name before stepping down as party leader, adding that the politician's early exit would be used as a politicking tool by the opposition Democrat Party.

Yongyuth gave up his positions in the government, the legislature and the party after Democrats initiated a judicial and administrative review of his job status.

Under the Constitution, someone accused of a disciplinary offence is banned from holding a House seat or joining the Cabinet.

The foreign minister also dismissed allegations that Thaksin's sister Yaowapa Wongsawat wielded influence over Pheu Thai, saying she was a former MP and maintained contact with "everyone" from the days of Thai Rak Thai to the present. "It is not easy for a former MP to turn her back on politics, but Yaowapa does not interfere," he said.

Surapong added that many people might consider her a faction leader, but the truth is that she talks to all younger politicians who hold her in high respect.

Despite speculation that Yaowapa might become Pheu Thai party leader, he said that as far as he knows, she has already turned down the offer. When asked about Priewpan's prospects, he said anybody with administrative experience could apply.

However, he side-stepped the question whether Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would take over as party leader. "The party has had several bitter experiences as independent organisations appear to be unfair," he said.

Separately, Pheu Thai secretary-general Charupong Ruangsuwan said the party's executive board would meet on Monday to decide on Yongyuth's successor, not an acting leader. He said it was not necessary for people to submit their applications because the executives had possibly already decided who should lead their party.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat said he had not been approached. "I don't think I am a candidate for the job, so please stop speculating," he said.


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