THE LATEST Cabinet reshuffle reflects Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s faith in the capabilities of “generals” rather than civilians or politicians in running the country. However, this does not apply to the new economic team, on which most of the attention is focused.
Prayut’s new Cabinet list received Royal endorsement and was published in the Royal Gazette yesterday. The new 34-member team includes 19 civilians, 14 retired and current military officers, and a retired police officer.
Two more Armymen – Energy Minister General Anantaporn Kanjanarat and Labour Minister General Sirichai Dithakul – were added to the Cabinet this time bringing the total number of generals to 14, compared with the previous Cabinet that had 12 retired and current generals. In the reshuffle, none of the generals were ousted from the Cabinet while 11 civilians were removed.
The number of generals in the Cabinet defied the expectations of political scientist Sirote Klampaiboon, who thought it was a sign of Prayut’s consideration for his fellow military officers.
A political scientist and former rector of Ramkhamhaeng University, Sukhum Nuansakul, agreed with this view, saying this Cabinet is formed with “an old pattern”. It also shows how military officers are considered more capable, compared with civilian politicians in the current political context, he said.
“This Cabinet is just designed to serve the current regime,” he said.
Thammasat University lecturer Attasit Pankaew held a different view. He said the number of military officers in the Cabinet did not matter because the military already holds maximum authority.
Nevertheless, Sirote said the military would have no influence on the new economic team, led by civilian Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. He also expected different policy approaches, and also some improvement over the former economic team led by MR Pridiyathorn Devakula.
“Somkid’s team consists of executives and businessmen from the private sector, while Pridiyathorn’s consisted mostly of civil servants,” he explained.
Attasit was also satisfied with the new economic team, saying it was the heart of the reshuffle.
Sukhum, however, was concerned whether Somkid’s approach may suit the military’s agenda, considering his former populist policies in the government of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Attasit was satisfied that Prayut had managed to put the right people in the right jobs in this reshuffle. He cited the example of new foreign minister Don Pramudwinai who “as a veteran diplomat, should serve the role well”.
However, Sirote did not think Don’s approach to foreign policy would be different from that of his predecessor, General Tanasak Patimapragorn, “except for some expected improvement in diplomatic protocols, as Don is an experienced diplomat”, he said.
Sirote also looks forward to seeing a tangible digital economy, resulting from the work between the economic team and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry led by Uttama Savanayana.
He also expected to see some improvement in infrastructure with the promotion of the new Transport Minister Akon Termpitayapaitsit.
“Our transportation deal with China should go more smoothly,” he said.
However, Sirote wished there had been a change in the Social Development and Human Security Minister, as the person holding the portfolio should have a basic knowledge of the issues.
“But the minister [Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew] still remains in his chair, and also the justice minister [Paiboon Koomchaya]”, he said.
Former education minister Chaturon Chaisang gave a thumb-down to the new line-up saying the change was merely on quantity and not quality.
“The new ministers are retired or current officials with many military officials. The change fails to give attention on capability,’’ he said.
He said the Prayut Cabinet faces two major obstacles: it does not have clear policies and the world community has not accepted it.
Chaturon said the new economic team also depended on many bureaucrats who may not be open to new economic policies.