Transport minister 'expected to be next leader'

national October 09, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Charupong believed to have a good image and similar characteristics as Yongyuth

Transport Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan, who is also Pheu Thai Party’s secretary-general, is expected to take over as party leader, a highly placed party source said yesterday. 

Reports have it that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, seen by many as the ruling party’s de-facto leader, has given the nod to Charupong assuming the party’s top post after the minister flew overseas to meet him. 
Charupong is believed to have a good image and similar characteristics as former Pheu Thai Party leader Yongyuth Wichaidit, who stepped down after the Civil Service Commission found him guilty of malfeasance in relation to the Alpine land controversy. It is believed that Charupong would make a good leader due to his allegiance to the party and wide acceptance among the red shirts. 
Another party source said several Pheu Thai members who met Thaksin in London had been told that Energy Minister Arak Chonlatanon might replace Charupong as party secretary-general. 
Meanwhile, Police Lt-General Viroj Pao-in was voted as caretaker leader of the Pheu Thai Party yesterday morning – while the general assembly to formally select a new party leader is due at the end of the month.
After a meeting of caretaker party executives, Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Viroj was the most senior of six deputy party leaders and an expert on the law and familiar with its regulations.
Viroj joined only Pheu Thai just before the 2011 general election, but has become caretaker leader following the resignation of Yongyuth Wichaidit.
He was elected for the first time in 1995, as the Prachakorn Thai Party MP for Angthong. Later, he joined the Chart Thai Party and was appointed a deputy prime minister in the Chuan Leekpai government in 2000.
Before becoming an MP, Viroj entered politics as a deputy interior minister in the short-lived Suchinda Kraprayoon government on April 17, 1992. He held the position just over a month until May 24, 1992.
Before joining the Suchinda Cabinet, Viroj sat on the Assets Examination Committee, set up following the coup against the Chatichai Government in 1991.
In the 2005 general election Viroj was beaten by a new-face candidate with Thai Rak Thai, Penchisa Hongupthamchai. He later joined Pheu Thai and became a deputy leader and contested the 2011 election as its No-17 party-list candidate.
Viroj, who is 78, is the most senior deputy leader. 
He said he believed he was selected as caretaker leader because he was the most senior deputy and would hold the position until the party calls a general assembly to elect the new executive board on October 30.
He did not know if he would become the official leader or not because former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had not talked to him about the position.
Viroj said the former national police chief, General Priewphan Damapong, plus Phumtham Wechayachai and other candidates had a chance of being the next Pheu Thai leader, but that would depend on party members.

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